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The Selected 
Poetry of 


Copyright, 1917, 1928, 1938, by Robbuon Jeffer*. Copyright, 1924, by Pet* 

Q. Boyle. Copyright, 1925, by Horace Lherigbt, Inc. Copyright, 1935, by The 

Modern Library, Inc. Copyright, 1933, 1937, h Rwdom Howe, Inc. 




FOREWORD page xiii 





















NIGHT 158 

BIRDS l6l 

FOG 162 










JOY 170 

























HANDS 264 


















TRIAD 459 





































WHERE I? 575 

















NOVA page 597 









SHIVA 6ll 






f HIS BOOK presents in one volume about half of 
my published work. In making the selection 
it was easy to eliminate the poems published 
in 1912 and 1916, which were only prepara- 
tory exercises, to say the best for them; and it 
was easy to omit a number of shorter poems 
from later volumes. After that the selection became more 
or less arbitrary. Several of the longer poems had to be 
omitted, for I have no desire to publish a "collected works" 
at this rime, but there appears little reason to choose among 
them. The Women at Point Sur seems to me in spite of 
grave faultsthe most inclusive, and poetically the most in- 
tense, of any of my poems; it is omitted from this selection 
because it is the least understood and least liked, and because 
it is the longest. Dear Judas also was not liked and is therefore 
omitted, though I think it has value, if any of these poems 
has. Such Counsels You Gave to Me is omitted in order to 
make room for a number of shorter pieces from the same 
volume. The omission of Caivdor is purely arbitrary and ac- 
cidental; I had finally to choose between this and Thurso's 
Landing; and there was no ground for choice; I simply drew 
lots in my mind. 

The arrangement of the book is merely chronological; the 
long poems are presented in the order of their writing, the 
short ones in groups as they were first published. The earliest 
of the long poems was written, I think, in 1921 and 1922; 
the earliest of the short ones in 1917. This is The Songs of the 
Dead Men to the Three Dancerschoruses from a wartime 
play reprinted here only as a sample of the metrical experi- 
ments that occupied my mind for awhile* 

A good friend of mine, who is also my publisher, wants me 

. . 



to turn this foreword to some account; he says that a number 
of people have written pro and con about my verses, and it 
is high time for the author himself to say something. Very 
likely. But I do not wish to commend or defend them, though 
sufficiently attacked; and it seems to me that their meaning is 
not obscure. Perhaps a few notes about their origins may be of 
interest to anyone who is interested in the verses themselves. 

Long ago, before anything included here was written, it 
became evident to me that poetry if it was to survive at 
all must reclaim some of the power and reality that it was so 
hastily surrendering to prose. The modern French poetry of 
that time, and the most "modern" of the English poetry, 
seemed to me thoroughly defeatist, as if poetry were in terror 
of prose, and desperately trying to save its soul from the 
victor by giving up its body. It was becoming slight and 
fantastic, abstract, unreal, eccentric; and was not even saving 
its soul, for these are generally anti-poetic qualities. It must 
reclaim substance and sense, and physical and psychological 
reality. This feeling has been basic in my mind since then. It 
led me to write narrative poetry, and to draw subjects from 
contemporary life; to present aspects of life that modem 
poetry had generally avoided; and to attempt the expression 
of philosophic and scientific ideas in verse. It was not in my 
mind to open new fields for poetry, but only to reclaim old 

Still it was obvious that poetry and prose are different 
things; their provinces overlap, but must not be confused. 
Prose, of course, is free of all fields; it seemed to me, reading 
poetry and trying to write it, that poetry is bound to concern 
itself chiefly with permanent things and the permanent aspects 
of life. That was perhaps the great distinction between them, 
as regards subject and material. Prose can discuss matters of 
the moment; poetry must deal with things that a reader two 
thousand years away could understand and be moved by. 
This excludes much of the circumstance of modern life, espe- 



cially in the cities. Fashions, forms of machinery, the more 
complex social, financial, political adjustments, and so forth, 
are all ephemeral, exceptional; they exist but will never exist 
again. Poetry must concern itself with (relatively) permanent 
things. These have poetic value; the ephemeral has only news 

Another formative principle came to me from a phrase of 
Nietzsche's: "The poets? The poets lie too much." I was 
nineteen when the phrase stuck in my mind; a dozen years 
passed before it worked effectively, and I decided not to tell 
lies in verse. Not to feign any emotion that I did not feel; not 
to pretend to believe in optimism or pessimism, or unreversible 
progress; not to say anything because it was popular, or gen- 
erally accepted, or fashionable in intellectual circles, unless 
I myself believed it; and not to believe easily. These negatives 
limit the field; I am not recommending them but for my own 

Here are the principles that conditioned the verse in this 
book before it was written; but it would not have been writ- 
ten at all except for certain accidents that changed and di- 
rected my life. (Some kind of verse I should have written, 
of course, but not this kind.) The first of these accidents 
was my meeting with the woman to whom this book is 
dedicated, and her influence, constant since that time. My 
nature is cold and undiscriminating; she excited and focused 
it, gave it eyes and nerves and sympathies. She never saw any 
of my poems until they were finished and typed, yet by her 
presence and conversation she has co-authored every one of 
them. Sometimes I think there must be some value in them, 
if only for that reason. She is more like a woman in a Scotch 
ballad, passionate, untamed and rather heroic or like a 
falcon than like any ordinary person. 

A second piece of pure accident brought us to the Mon- 
terey coast mountains, where for the first time in my life 
I could see people living amid magnificent unspoiled seen- 



ery essentially as they did in the Idyls or the Sagas, or in 
Homer's Ithaca. Here was life purged of its ephemeral accre- 
tions. Men were riding after cattle, or plowing the headland, 
hovered by white sea-gulls, as they have done for thousands 
of years, and will for thousands of years to come. Here was 
contemporary life that was also permanent life; and not shut 
from the modern world but conscious of it and related to it; 
capable of expressing its spirit, but unencumbered by the mass 
of poetically irrelevant details and complexities that make a 

By this time I was nearing thirty, and still a whole series 
of accidents was required to stir my lazy energies to the point 
of writing verse that seemed to be whether good or bad at 
least my own voice. 

So much for the book as a whole: a few notes may be added 
as to the origins of particular poems. 

Tatnar grew up from the biblical story, mixed with a remi- 
niscence of Shelley's Cenci^ and from the strange, introverted 
and storm-twisted beauty of Point Lobos. Roan Stallion 
originated from an abandoned cabin that we discovered in a 
roadless hollow of the hills. When later we asked about its 
history no one was able to tell us anything except that the 
place had been abandoned ever since its owner was killed by 
a stallion. 

This is the only one of my poems of which I can remember 
clearly the moment of conception. I had just finished The 
Tower Beyond Tragedy and was looking about for another 
subject which was to be contemporary, because I repented 
of using a Greek story when there were so many new ones 
at hand. I was quarrying granite under the sea-cliff to build 
our house with, and slacking on the job sat down on a wet 
rock to look at the sunset and think about my next poem. The 
.stallion and the desolate cabin came to mind; then immedi- 
ately, for persons of the drama, came the Indian woman and 



her white husband, real persons whom I had often seen driv- 
ing through our village in a ramshackle buggy. The episode 
of the woman swimming her horse through a storm-swollen 
ford at night came also; it was part of her actual history. . . . 
So that when I stood up and began to handle stones again, the 
poem had already made itself in my mind. 

The Tower Beyond Tragedy was suggested to me by the 
imposing personality of a Jewish actress who was our guest 
for a day or two. She was less than successful on the stage, 
being too tall, and tragic in the old-fashioned manner; but 
when she stood up in our little room under the low ceiling and 
recited a tragic ballad "Edward, Edward" for a few people 
gathered there, the experience made me want to build a heroic 
poem to match her formidable voice and rather colossal 
beauty. I thought these would be absurdly out of place in any 
contemporary story, so I looked back toward the feet of 
Aeschylus, and cast this woman for the part of Cassandra in 
my poem. 

Apology for Bad Dreams originated from the episode of 
the woman and her sons torturing a horse, a thing which hap- 
pened on our coast. Cruelty is a part of nature, at least of 
human nature, but it is the one thing that seems unnatural to 
us; the tension of the mind trying to recognize cruelty and 
evil as part of the sum of things is what made the poem. 
(This woman a few years later was killed by another horse: 
an unusual piece of justice.) 

The story of The Loving Shepherdess was suggested by a 
footnote in one of the novels of Walter Scott, which I was 
reading aloud to our sons. I cannot remember which novel it 
was. The note tells about a half-insane girl who wandered up 
and down Scotland with a dwindling flock of sheep, that 
perished one by one. 

The story of Thurso's Landing was suggested entirely, I 
think, by the savage beauty of the canyon and sea-cliff that 
are its scene, and by the long-abandoned lime-works there, 



1 cannot remember planning the story at all. When we first 
saw this place, in 1914, the heavy steel cable was hanging 
across the sky of the canyon, still supporting a rusted skip. 
During the war it was taken down for scrap-iron. 

The phrase "Give your heart to the hawks" swam about in 
my mind for several years as a good title for a poem; then one 
day I noticed the scene and farmhouse that seemed to fit the 
tide, in Sycamore Canyon, just south of Big Sur; and between 
the title and the scene the poem unrolled itself. 

At the Birth of an Age had a more calculated origin. I 
was considering the main sources of our civilization, and listed 
them roughly as Hebrew-Christian, Roman, Greek, Teutonic. 
Then it occurred to me that I had written something about 
the Hebrew-Christian source in Dear Judas, and that The 
Tower Beyond Tragedy might pass for a recognition of the 
Greek source. About the Roman source I should probably 
never write anything, for it is less sympathetic to me. Recog- 
nition of the Teutonic source might be an interesting theme 
for a new poem, I thought . . . and the Volsung Saga might 
serve for fable. Only as the poem progressed did the Teutonic 
element begin to warp and groan under the tension of Chris- 
tian influence. The symbol of the self-tortured God, that 
closes the poem, had appeared to me long before in Apology 
for Bad Dreams and in The Women at Point Sur Heauton- 
timoroumenos, the self -tormentor but it stands most clearly 
in the self-hanged Odin of Norse mythology. 





A night the half-moon was like a dancing-girl, 

No, like a drunkard's last half-dollar 

Shoved on the polished bar of the eastern hill-range, 

Young Cauldwell rode his pony along the sea-cliff; 

When she stopped, spurred; when she trembled, drove 

The teeth of the little jagged wheels so deep 

They tasted blood; the mare with four slim hooves 

On a foot of ground pivoted like a top, 

Jumped from the crumble of sod, went down, caught, slipped; 

Then, the quick frenzy finished, stiffening herself 

Slid with her drunken rider down the ledges, 

Shot from sheer rock and broke 

Her life out on the rounded tidal boulders. 

The night you know accepted with no show of emotion the litde 

accident; grave Orion 
Moved northwest from the naked shore, the moon moved to 

meridian, the slow pulse of the ocean 
Beat, the slow tide came in across the slippery stones; it drowned 

the dead mare's muzzle and sluggishly 
Felt for the rider; CauldwelTs sleepy soul came back from the 

blind course curious to know 
What sea-cold fingers tapped the walls of its deserted ruin. 

Pain, pain and faintness, crushing 
Weights, and a vain desire to vomit, and soon again 
die icy fingers, they had crept over the loose hand and lay in the 

hair now. He rolled sidewise 
\gainst mountains of weight and for another half-hour lay still. 

With a gush of liquid noises 
Hie wave covered him head and all, his body 
Crawled without consciousness and like a creature with no bones, 

a seaworm, lifted its face 



Above the sea-wrack of a stone; then a white twilight grew about 
the moon, and above 

The ancient water, the everlasting repetition of the dawn. You 
shipwrecked horseman 

So many and still so many and now for you the last. But when it 
grew daylight 

He grew quite conscious; broken ends of bone ground on each 
other among the working fibers 

While by half-inches he was drawing himself out of the sea- 
wrack up to sandy granite, 

Out of the tide's path. Where the thin ledge tailed into flat cliff 
he fell asleep. . . . 

Far seaward 

The daylight moon hung like a slip of cloud against the horizon. 
The tide was ebbing 

From the dead horse and the black belt of sea-growth. Cauldwell 
seemed to have felt her crying beside him, 

His mother, who was dead. He thought "If I had a month or two 
of life yet 

I would remember to be decent, only it's now too late, I'm fin- 
ished, mother, mother, 

I'm sorry." After that he thought only of pain and raging thirst 
until the sundown 

Reddened the sea, and hands were reaching for him and drawing 
him up the cliff . 

His sister Tamar 

Nursed him in the big westward bedroom 
Of the old house on Point Lobos. After fever 
A wonderful day of peace and pleasant weakness 
Brought home to his heart the beauty of things. "O Tamar 
I've thrown away years like rubbish. Listen, Tamar, 
It would be better for me to be a cripple, 
Sit on the steps and watch the forest grow up the hill 
Or a new speck of moss on some old rock 
That takes ten years agrowing, than waste 
Shame and my spirit on Monterey rye whiskey, 
And worse, and worse. I shan't be a cripple, Tamar. 


We'll walk along the blessed old gray sea, 

And up in the hills and watch the spring come home." 

Youth is a troublesome but a magical thing, 

There is little more to say for it when you've said 

Young bones knit easily; he that fell in December 

Walked in the February fields. His sister Tamar 

Was with him, and his mind ran on her name, 

But she was saying, "We laugh at poor Aunt Stella 

With her spirit visitors: Lee, something told her truth. 

Last August, you were hunting deer, you had been gone 

Ten days or twelve, we heard her scream at night, 

I went to the room, she told me 

She'd seen you lying all bloody on the sea-beach 

By a dead deer, its blood dabbling the black weeds of the ebb." 

"I was up Tassajara way," he answered, 

"Far from the sea." "We were glad when you rode home 

Safe, with the two bucks on the packhorse. But listen, 

She said she watched the stars flying over you 

In her vision, Orion she said, and made me look 

Out of her window southward, where I saw 

The stars they call the Scorpion, the red bead 

With the curling tail. Then it will be in winter,' 

She whispered to me, 'Orion is winter.' " "Tamar, Tamar, 

Winter is over, visions are over and vanished, 

The fields are winking full of poppies, 

In a week or two I'll fill your arms with shining irises." 

The winter sun went under and all that night there came a roaring 
from the south; Lee Cauldwell 

Lay awake and heard the tough old house creak all her timbers; 
he was miserably lonely and vacant, 

He'd put away the boyish jets of wickedness, loves with dark 
eyes in Monterey back-streets, liquor 

And all its fellowship, what was left to live for but the farm- 
work, rain would come and hinder? 

He heard the cypress trees that seemed to scream in the wind, 
and felt the ocean pounding granite. 


His father and Tamar's, the old man David Cauldwell, lay in the 

eastern chamber; when the storm 
Wakened him from the heartless fugitive slumber of age he rose 

and made a light, and lighted 
The lamp not cold yet; night and day were nearly equal to him, 

he had seen too many; he dressed 
Slowly and opened his Bible. In the neighboring rooms he heard 

on one side Stella Moreland, 
His dead wife's sister, quieting his own sister, the idiot Jinny 

Cauldwell, who laughed and chuckled 
Often for half the night long, an old woman with a child's mind 

and mostly sleepless; in the other 

Chamber Tamar was moaning, for it seemed that nightmare 
Within the house answered to storm without. 
To Tamar it seemed that she was walking by the seaside 
With her dear brother, who said "Here's where I fell, 
A bad girl that I knew in Monterey pushed me over the cliff, 
You can see blood still on the boulders." Where he vanished to 
She could not tell, nor why she was crying "Lee. No. 
No dearest brother, dearest brother no." But she cried vainly, 
Lee was not there to help her, a wild white horse 
Came out of the wave and trampled her with his hooves, 
The horror that she had dreaded through her dreaming 
With mystical foreknowledge. When it wakened her, 
She like her father heard old Jinny chuckling 
And Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind 
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of 

the cypresses. 
"When it rains it will be quieter," Tamar thought. She slept 

again, all night not a drop fell. 
Old Cauldwell from his window saw the cloudy light seep up 

the sky from the overhanging 
Hilltops, the dawn was dammed behind the hills but overflowed 

at last and ran down on the sea. 


Lee Cauldwell rode across the roaring southwind to the winter 
pasture up in the hills. 



A hundred times he wanted Tamar, to show her some new beauty 

of canyon wildflowers, water 

Dashing its ferns, or oaktrees thrusting elbows at the wind, black- 
oaks smoldering with foliage 
And the streaked beauty of white-oak trunks, and redwood 

glens; he rode up higher across the rainwind 
And found his father's cattle in a quiet hollow among the hills, 

their horns to the wind, 
Quietly grazing. He returned another way, from the headland 

over Wildcat Canyon, 
Saw the immense water possessing all the west and saw Point 


Gemmed in it, and the barn-roofs and the house-roof 
Like ships' keels in the cypress tops, and thought of Tamar. 
Toward sundown he approached the house; Will Andrews 
Was leaving it and young Cauldwell said, "Listen, Bill Andrews, 
We've had gay times together and ridden at night. 
I've quit it, I don't want my old friends to visit my sister. 
Better keep off the place." "I will," said the other, 
"When Tamar tells me to." "You think my bones 
Aren't mended yet, better keep off." Lee Cauldwell 
Rode by to the stable wondering why his lips 
Twitched with such bitter anger; Tamar wondered 
Why he went upstairs without a word or smile 
Of pleasure in her. The old man David Cauldwell, 
When Lee had told him news of the herd and that Ramon 
Seemed faithful, and the calves flourished, the old man answered: 
"I hear that there's a dance at Motley's Landing Saturday. You'll 

be riding 
Down the coast, Lee. Don't kill the horse, have a good time." 

"No, I've had all I want, I'm staying 
At home now, evenings." "Don't do it; better dance your pony 

down the cliffs again than close 
Young life into a little box; you've been too wild; now I'm worn 

out, but I remember 
Hell's in the box." Lee answered nothing, his father's lamp of 

thought was hidden awhile in words, 



An old man's words, like the dry evening moths that choke a 

candle. A space, and he was saying, 
"Come summer we'll be mixed into the bloody squabble out there, 

and you'll be going headforemost 
Unless you make your life so pleasant you'd rather live it. I 

mayn't be living 

To see you home or hear you're killed." Lee, smiling at him, 
"A soldier's what I won't be, father." That night 
He dreamed himself a soldier, an aviator 
Duelling with a German above a battle 
That looked like waves, he fired his gun and mounted 
In steady rhythm; he must have been winged, he suddenly 
Plunged and went through the soft and deadly surface 
Of the deep sea, wakening in terror. 
He heard his old Aunt Jinny chuckling, 
Aunt Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind 
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of 

the cypresses. 


They two had unbridled the horses 

And tied them with long halters near the thicket 

Under Mai Paso bridge and wandered east 

Into the narrow cleft, they had climbed the summit 

On the right and looked across the sea. 

The steep path down, "What are we for?" said Tamar wearily, 
"to want and want and not dare know it." 

"Because I dropped the faded irises," Lee answered, "you're un- 
happy. They were all withered, Tamar. 

We have grown up in the same house." "The withered house 

Of an old man and a withered woman and an idiot woman. No 
wonder if we go mad, no wonder." 

They came to the hid stream and Tamar said, "Sweet, green and 

After the mad white April sun: you wouldn't mind, Lee? 

Here where it makes a pool: you mustn't look; but you're my 
brother. And then 



I will stand guard for you." The murmur and splash of water 

made his fever fierier; something 
Unfelt before kept his eyes seaward: why should he dread to see 

the round arm and clear throat 
Flash from the hollow stream? He trembled, thinking U O we are 

beasts, a beast, what am I for? 
Was the old man right, I must be drunk and a dancer and feed on 

the cheap pleasures, or it's dangerous? 
Lovely and thoughtless, if she knew me how she'd loathe and 

avoid me. Her brother, brother. My sister. 
Better the life with the bones, and all at once have broken." 

Meanwhile Tamar 

Uneasily dipped her wrists, and crouching in the leaf-grown bank 
Saw her breasts in the dark mirror, she trembled backward 
From a long ripple and timidly wading entered 
The quiet translucence to the thighs. White-shining 
Slender and virgin pillar, desire in water 

Unhidden and half reflected among the interbranching ripples, 
Arched with alder, over-woven with willow. 
Ah Tamar, stricken with strange fever and feeling 
Her own desirableness, half-innocent Tamar 
Thought, "If I saw a snake in the water he would come now 
And kill the snake, he is keen and fearless but he fears 
Me I believe." Was it the wild rock coast 
Of her breeding, and the reckless wind 
In the beaten trees and the gaunt booming crashes 
Of breakers under the rocks, or rather the amplitude 
And wing-subduing immense earth-ending water 
That moves all the west taught her this freedom? Ah Tamar, 
It was not good, not wise, not safe, not provident, 
Not even, for custom creates nature, natural, 
Though all other license were; and surely her face 
Grew lean and whitened like a mask, the lips 
Thinned their rose to a split thread, the little breasts 
Erected sharp bright buds but the white belly 
Shuddered, sucked in. The lips writhed and no voice 
Formed, and again, and a faint cry. "Tamar?" 
He answered, and she answered, "Nothing. A snake in the water 


Frightened me." And again she called his name. 

"What is it, Tamar?" "Nothing. It is cold in the water. 

Come, Lee, I have hidden myself all but the head. 

Bathe, if you mean to bathe, and keep me company. 

I won't look till you're in." He came, trembling. 

He unclothed himself in a green depth and dared not 

Enter the pool, but stared at the drawn scars 

Of the old wound on his leg. "Come, Lee, I'm freezing. 

Come, I won't look." He saw the clear-skinned shoulders 

And the hollow of her back, he drowned his body 

In the watery floor under the cave of foliage, 

And heard her sobbing. When she turned, the great blue eyes 

Under the auburn hair, streamed. "Lee. 

We have stopped being children; I would have drowned myself; 

If you hadn't taught me swimming long ago long ago, Lee 

When we were children." "Tamar, what is it, what is it?" 

"Only that I want . . . death. You lie if you think 

Another thing." She slipped face down and lay 

In the harmless water, the auburn hair trailed forward 

Darkened like weeds, the double arc of the shoulders 

Floated, and when he had dragged her to the bank both arms 

Clung to him, the white body in a sobbing spasm 

Clutched him, he could not disentangle the white desire, 

So they were joined (like drowning folk brought back 

By force to bitter life) painfully, without joy. 

The spasm fulfilled, poor Tamar, like one drowned indeed, lay 

pale and quiet 

And careless of her nakedness. He, gulfs opening 
Between the shapes of his thought, desired to rise and leave her 

and was ashamed to. 
He lay by her side, the cheek he kissed was cold like a smooth 

stone, the blue eyes were half open, 
The bright smooth body seemed to have suffered pain, not love. 

One of her arms crushed both her breasts, 
The other lay in the grass, the fingers clutching toward the 

roots of die soft grass. "Tamar," 
He whispered, then she breathed shudderingly and answered, 

"We have it, we have it. Now I know. 



It was my fault. I never shall be ashamed again/' He said, u What 

shall I do? Go away? 
Kill myself, Tamar?" She contracted all her body and crouched 

in the long grass, shivering. 
"It hurts, there is blood here, I am too cold to bathe myself 

again. O brother, brother, 
Mine and twice mine. You knew already, a girl has got to learn. 

I love you, I chose my teacher. 
Mine, it was my doing." She flung herself upon him, cold white 

and smooth, with sobbing kisses. 
"I am so cold, dearest, dearest." The horses at the canyon mouth 

tugged at their halters, 

Dug pits under the restless forehooves, shivered in the hill-wind 
At sundown, were not ridden till dark, it was near midnight 
They came to the old house. 

When Jinny Cauldwell slept, the old woman with a child's mind, 

then Stella Moreland 
Invoked her childish-minded dead, or lying blank-eyed in the 

dark egged on her dreams to vision, 
Suffering for lack of audience, tasting the ecstasy of vision. This 

was the vaporous portion 

She endured her life in the strength of, in the sea-shaken lone- 
liness, little loved, nursing an idiot, 
Growing bitterly old among the wind-torn Lobos cypress trunks. 

(O torture of needled branches 
Doubled and gnarled, never a moment of quiet, the northwind 

or the southwind or the northwest. 
For up and down the coast they are tall and terrible horsemen on 

patrol, alternate giants 
Guarding the granite and sand frontiers of the last ocean; but 

here at Lobos the winds are torturers, 
The old trees endure them. They blew always thwart the old 

woman's dreams and sometimes by her bedside 
Stood, the south in russety black, the north in white, but the 

northwest wave-green, sea-brilliant, 



Scaled like a fish. She had also the sun and moon and mightier 

presences in her visions.) Tamar 
Entered the room toward morning and stood ghost-like among 

the old woman's ghosts. The rolled-up eyes, 
Dull white, with little spindles of iris touching the upper lids, 

played back the girl's blown candle 
Sightlessly, but the spirit of sight that the eyes are tools of and 

it made them, saw her. "Ah, Helen," 
Cried out the entranced lips, "We thought you were tired of the 

wind, we thought you never came now. 
My sister's husband lies in the next room, go waken him, show 

him your beauty, call him with kisses. 
He is old and the spittle when he dreams runs into his beard, but 

he is your lover and your brother." 
"I am not Helen," she said, "what Helen, what Helen?" "Who 

was not the wife but the sister of her man, 
Mine was his wife." "My mother?" "And now he is an old hulk 

battered ashore. Show him your beauty, 
Strip for him, Helen, as when he made you a seaweed bed in the 

cave. What if the beard is slimy 
And the eyes run, men are not always young and fresh like you 

dead women." But Tamar clutching 
The plump hand on the coverlet scratched it with her nails, the 

old woman groaned but would not waken, 
And Tamar held the candle flame against the hand, the soot 

striped it, then with a scream 
The old woman awoke, sat up, and fell back rigid on the bed. 

Tamar found place for the candle 
On a little table at the bedside, her freed hands could not awaken 

a second answer 
In the flesh that now for all its fatness felt like a warmed stone. 

But the idiot waked and chuckled, 
Waved both hands at the candle saying, "My little star, my little 

star, come little star." 

And to these three old Cauldwell sighing with sleeplessness 
Entered, not noticed, and he stood in the open door. Tamar was 

Over the bed, loose hair like burnished metal 



Concealed her face and sharply cut across one rounded shoulder 

The thin night-dress had slipped from. The old man her father 

Feared, for a ghost of law-contemptuous youth 

Slid through the chilly vaults of the stiff arteries, 

And he said, "What is it, Tamar?" "She was screaming in a 


I came to quiet her, now she has gone stiff like iron. 
Who is this woman Helen she was dreaming about?" 
"Helen? Helen?" he answered slowly and Tamar 
Believed she saw the beard and the hands tremble. 
"It's too cold for you, Tamar, go back to bed 
And I'll take care of her. A common name for women." 
Old Jinny clapped her hands, "Little star, little star, 
Twinkle all night!" and the stiff form on the bed began to speak, 
In a changed voice and from another mode of being 
And spirit of thought: "I cannot think that you have forgotten. 
I was walking on the far side of the moon, 
Whence everything is seen but the earth, and never forgot. 
This girl's desire drew me home, we also had wanted 
Too near our blood, 

And to tangle the interbranching net of generations 
With a knot sideways. Desire's the arrow-sprayer 
And shoots into the stars. Poor little Tamar 
He gave you a luckless name in memory of me 
And now he is old forgets mine." "You are that Helen," 
Said Tamar leaning over the fat shape 
The quiet and fleshless voice seemed issuing from, 
A sound of youth from the old puffed lips, "What Helen? This 

man's . . . 

Sister, this body was saying?" "By as much more 
As you are of your brother." "Why," laughed Tamar trembling, 
"Hundreds of nasty children do it, and we 
Nothing but children." Then the old man: "Lies, lies, lies. 
No ghost, a lying old woman. Your Aunt Helen 
Died white as snow. She died before your mother died. 
Your mother and this old woman always hated her, 
This liar, as they hated me. I was too hard a nature 
To die of it, Lily and Stella." "It makes me nothing, 



My darling sin a shadow and me a doll on wires," 

Thought Tamar with one half her spirit; and the other half said, 

"Poor lies, words without meaning. Poor Aunt Stella, 

The voices in her have no minds." "Poor little Tamar," 

Murmured the young voice from the swollen cavern, 

"Though you are that woman's daughter, if we dead 

Could be sorrowful for anyone but ourselves 

I would be sorrowful for you, a trap so baited 

Was laid to catch you when the world began, 

Before the granite foundation. I too have tasted the sweet bait. 

But you are the luckier, no one came home to me 

To say there are no whips beyond death but only memory, 

And that can be endured." The room was quiet a moment, 

And Tamar heard the wind moving outdoors. Then the idiot 

Jinny Cauldwell 
Whose mind had been from birth a crippled bird but when she 

was twelve years old her mind's cage 
Was covered utterly, like a bird-cage covered with its evening 

cloth when lamps are lighted, 
And her memory skipped the more than forty years between but 

caught stray gleams of the sun of childhood, 
She in her crumpled voice: "I'd rather play with Helen, go away 

Stella. Stella pinches me, 
Lily laughs at me, Lily and Stella are not my sisters." "Jinny, 


Said the old man shaking like a thin brick house-wall in an earth- 
quake, "do you remember, Jinny?" 
"Jinny don't like the old man," she answered, "give me the star, 

give me my star," 
She whined, stretching from bed to reach the candle, "why have 

they taken my little star? 
Helen would give it to Jinny." Then Stella waking from the 

trance sighed and arose to quiet her 
According to her night's habit. Tamar said, "You were screaming 

in your sleep." "I had great visions. 
And I have forgotten them. There Jinny, there, there. It'll have 

the candle, will it? Pretty Jinny. 



Will have candle to-morrow. Little Jinny let Aunt Stella sleep 

now." Old Cauldwell tottering 
Went to his room; then Tamar said, "You were talking about 

his sister Helen, my aunt Helen, 
You never told me about her." "She has been dead for forty 

years, what should we tell you about her? 
Now little Jinny, pretty sister," And laying her hands upon the 

mattress of the bed 
The old woman cradled it up and down, humming a weary song. 

Tamar stood vainly waiting 
The sleep of the monstrous babe; at length because it would not 

sleep went to her room and heard it 

Gurgle and whimper an hour; and the tired litanies of the lulla- 
bies; not quiet till daylight. 


O swiftness of the swallow and strength 
Of the stone shore, brave beauty of falcons, 
Beauty of the blue heron that flies 
Opposite the color of evening 
From the Carmel River's reed-grown mouth 
To her nest in the deep wood of the deer 
Cliffs of peninsular granite engirdle, 

beauty of the fountains of the sun 

1 pray you enter a little chamber, 

I have given you bodies, I have made you puppets, 

I have made idols for God to enter 

And tiny cells to hold your honey. 

I have given you a dotard and an idiot, 

An old woman puffed with vanity, youth but botched with 


O blower of music through the crooked bugles, 
You that make signs of sins and choose the lame for angels, 
Enter and possess. Being light you have chosen the dark lamps, 
A hawk the sluggish bodies: therefore God you chose 
Me; and therefore I have made you idols like these idols 
To enter and possess. 

Tamar, finding no hope, 



Slid back on passion, she had sought counsel of the dead 

And found half-scornful pity and found her sin 

Fore-dated; there was honey at least in shame 

And secrecy in silence, and her lover 

Could meet her afield or slip to her room at night 

In serviceable safety. They learned, these two, 

Not to look back nor forward; and but for the hint 

Of vague and possible wreck every transgression 

Paints on the storm-edge of the sky, their blue 

Though it dulled a shade with custom shone serene 

To the fifth moon, when the moon's mark on women 

Died out of Tamar. She kept secret the warning, 

How could she color such love with perplexed fear? 

Her soul walked back and forth like a new prisoner 

Feeling the plant of unescapable fate 

Root in her body. There was death; who had entered water 

To compass love might enter again to escape 

Love's fruit; "But O, but O," she thought, "not to die now. 

It is less than half a year 

Since life turned sweet. If I knew one of the girls 

My lover has known 

She'd tell me what to do, how to be fruitless, 

How to be ... happy? They do it, they do it, all sin 

Grew nothing to us that day in Mai Paso water. 

A love sterile and sacred as the stars. 

I will tell my lover, he will make me safe, 

He will find means . . . 

Sterile and sacred, and more than any woman 

. . . Unhappy. Miserable," she sobbed, "miserable, 

The rough and bitter water about the cliff's foot 

Better to breathe." 

When Lee was not by her side 

She walke4 the cliffs to tempt them. The calm and large 
Pacific surge heavy with summer rolling southeast from a far 


Battered to foam among the stumps of granite below. 
Tamar watched it swing up the little fjords and fountain 
Not angrily in the blowholes; a gray vapor 



Breathed up among the buttressed writhings of the cypress trunks 
And branches swollen with blood-red lichen. She went home 
And her night was full of foolish dreams, two layers of dream, 

unrelative in emotion 
Or substance to the pain of her thoughts. One, the undercurrent 

layer that seemed all night continuous, 
Concerned the dead (and rather a vision than a dream, for visions 

gathered on that house 
Like corposant fire on the hoar mastheads of a ship wandering 

strange waters), brown-skinned families 
Came down the river and straggled through the wood to the sea, 

they kindled fires by knobs of granite 
And ate the sea-food that the plow still turns up rotting shells of, 

not only around Point Lobos 
But north and south wherever the earth breaks off to sea-rock; 

Tamar saw the huddled bodies 
Squat by the fires and sleep; but when the dawn came there was 

throbbing music meant for daylight 
And that weak people went where it led them and were nothing; 

then Spaniards, priests and horseback soldiers, 
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea, 

and hearing the universal music 

Went where it led them and were nothing; and the English- 
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea, 

among them Tamar saw her mother 
Walking beside a nameless woman with no face nor breasts; and 

the universal music 
Led them away and they were nothing; but Tamar led her father 

from that flood and saved him, 
For someone named a church built on a rock, it was beautiful 

and white, not fallen to ruin 
Like the ruin by Carmel River; she led him to it and made him 

enter the door, when he had entered 
A new race came from the door and wandered down the river 

to the sea and to Point Lobos. 
This was the undertow of the dream, obscured by a brighter 

surface layer but seeming senseless. 



The tides of the sea were quiet and someone said "because the 

moon is lost." Tamar looked up 
And the moon dwindled, rocketing off through lonely space, and 

the people in the moon would perish 
Of cold or of a star's fire: then Will Andrews curiously wounded 

in the face came saying 
"Tamar, don't cry. What do you care? I will take care of you." 

Wakening, Tamar thought about him 
And how he had stopped coming to see her. Perhaps it was 

another man came through her dream, 
The wound in the face disguised him, but that morning Lee 

having ridden to Mill Creek 
To bargain about some fields of winter pasture 
Now that the advancing year withered the hill-grass, 
Tamar went down and saddled her own pony, 
A four-year-old, as white as foam, and cantered 
Past San Jose creek-mouth and the Carrows' farm 
(Where David Carrow and his fanatical blue eyes, 
That afterward saw Christ on the hill, smiled at her passing) 
And three miles up the Carmel Valley came 
To the Andrews place where the orchards ran to the river 
And all the air was rich with ripening apples. 
She would not go to the house; she did not find 
Whom she was seeking; at length sadly she turned 
Homeward, for Lee might be home within two hours, 
And on the Carmel bridge above the water 
(Shrunken with summer and shot with water lichen, 
The surface scaled with minute scarlet leaves, 
The borders green with slimy threads) met whom she sought. 
"Tamar," he said, "I've been to see you." "You hadn't 
For a long time." "I had some trouble with Lee, 
I thought you didn't want me." While they talked 
Her eyes tasted his face: was it endurable? 
Though it lacked the curious gash her dream had given him. . . . 
"I didn't want you, you thought?" "Lee said so." "You might 

have waited 

Till Tamar said so." "Well," he answered, "I've been, 
And neither of you was home but now I've met you." 



Well-looking enough; freckles, light hair, light eyes; 

Not tall, but with a chest and hard wide shoulders, 

And sitting the horse well "O I can do it, I can do it, 

Help me, God," murmured Tamar in her mind, 

"How else what else can I do?" and said, "Luck, isn't it? 

What did you want to see me about?" "I wanted . . . 

Because I ... like you, Tamar." "Why should I be careful," 

She thought, "if I frighten him off what does it matter, 

I have got a little beyond caring." "Let's go down 

Into the willow," she said, "we needn't be seen 

Talking and someone tell him and make trouble 

Here on the bridge." They went to the hidden bank 

Under the deep green willows, colored water 

Stagnated on its moss up to the stems, 

Coarse herbage hid the stirrups, Tamar slid from the saddle 

As quietly as the long unwhitening wave 

Moulds a sunk rock, and while he tethered the horses, 

"I have been lonely," she said. "Not for me, Tamar." 

"You think not? Will, now that all's over 

And likely we'll not see each other again 

Often, nor by ourselves, why shouldn't I tell you . . ." 

"What, Tamar?" "There've been moments . . . hours then . . 

When anything you might have asked me for 

Would have been given, I'd have done anything 

You asked me to, you never asked anything, Will. 

I'm telling you this so that you may remember me 

As one who had courage to speak truth, you'll meet 

So many others." "But now" he meant to ask, 

"Now it's too late, Tamar?" and hadn't courage, 

And Tamar thought "Must I go farther and say more? 

Let him despise me as I despise myself. 

I have got a little beyond caring." "Now?" she said. 

"Do you think I am changed? You have changed, Will, you 

have grown 

Older, and stronger I think, your face is firmer; 
And carcfuller: I have not changed, I am still reckless 
To my own injury, and as trustful as a child. 



Would I be with you here in the green thicket 

If I weren't trustful? If you should harm me, Will, 

I'd think it was no harm." She had laid her hand 

On the round sunburnt throat and felt it throbbing, 

And while she spoke the thought ran through her mind, 

"He is only a little boy but if he turns pale 

I have won perhaps, for white's the wanting color. 

If he reddens IVe lost and it's no matter." He did not move 

And seemed not to change color and Tamar said, 

"Now I must go. Lee will be home soon. 

How soft the ground is in the willow shadow. 

I have ended with you honestly, Will; remember me 

Not afraid to speak truth and not ashamed 

To have stripped my soul naked. You have seen all of me. 

Good-bye." But when she turned he caught her by the arm, 

She sickened inward, thinking, "Now it has come. 

I have called and called it and I can't endure it. 

Ah. A dumb beast." But he had found words now and said, 

"How would you feel, Tamar, if all of a sudden 

The bird or star you'd broken your heart to have 

Flew into your hands, then flew away. O Tamar, Tamar, 

You can't go now, you can't." She unresisting 

Took the hot kisses on her neck and hair 

And hung loose in his arms the while he carried her 

To a clean bank of grass in the deep shadow. 

He laid her there and kneeling by her: "You said you trusted 


You are wise, Tamar; I love you so much too well 
I would cut my hands off not to harm you." But she, 
Driven by the inward spark of life and drcsulintr 
Its premature maturity, could not rest 
On harmless love, there were no hands to help 
In the innocence of love, and like a vision 
Came to her the memory of that other lover 
And how he had fallen a farther depth 
From firmer innocence at Mai Paso, but the stagnant 
Autumn water of Carmel stood too far 



From the April freshet in the hills. Tamar pushed off 

His kisses and stood up weeping and cried 

"It's no use, why will you love me till I cry? 

Lee hates you and my father is old and old, we can't 

Sour the three years he has before he dies." 

"I'll wait for you," said the boy, "wait years, Tamar." Then 


Hiding her face against his throat 
So that he felt the tears whispered, "But I ..." 
She sobbed, "Have no patience ... I can't wait. Will . . . 
When I made my soul naked for you 
There was one spot ... a fault ... a shame 
I was ashamed to uncover." She pressed her mouth 
Between the muscles of his breast: "I want you and want you. 
You didn't know that a clean girl could want a man. 
Now you will take me and use me and throw me away 
And I've . . . earned it." "Tamar, I swear by God 
Never to let you be sorry, but protect you 
With all my life." "This is our marriage," Tamar answered. 
"But God would have been good to me to have killed me 
Before I told you." The boy feeling her body 
Vibrant and soft and sweet in its weeping surrender 
Went blind and could not feel how she hated him 
That moment; when he awakened she was lying 
With the auburn hair muddied and the white face 
Turned up to the willow leaves, her teeth were bared 
And sunk in the under lip, a smear of blood 
Reddening the corner of the lips. One of her arms 
Crushed both her breasts, the other lay in the grass, 
The fingers clutching toward the roots of the soft grass. "O 

Murmured the boy, "I love you, I love you. What shall I do? 

Go away? 
Kill myself, Tamar?" She contracted all her body and crouched 

in the long grass, thinking 
"That Helen of my old father's never fooled him at least," and 

said, "There is nothing to do, nothing. 



It is horribly finished. Keep it secret, keep it secret, Will. I too 

was to blame a little. 
But I didn't mean . . . this." "I know," he said, "it was my 

fault, I would kill myself, Tamar, 
To undo it but I loved you so, Tamar." "Loved? You have hurt 

me and broken me, the house is broken 
And any thief can enter it." "O Tamar!" "You have broken 

our crystal innocence, we can never 
Look at each other freely again." "What can I do, Tamar?" 

"Nothing. I don't know. Nothing. 
Never come to the farm to see me." "Where can I see you, 

Tamar?" "Lee is always watching me, 
And I believe he'd kill us. Listen, Will. To-morrow night I'll 

put a lamp in my window, 
When all the house is quiet, and if you see it you can climb up 

by the cypress. I must go home, 
Lee will be home. Will, though you've done to me worse than 

I ever dreamed, I love you, you have my soul, 
I am your tame bird now." 


This was the high plateau of summer and August waning; white 

Breathed up no more from the brown fields nor hung in the hills; 
daily the insufferable sun 

Rose, naked light, and flaming naked through the pale transpar- 
ent ways of the air drained gray 

The strengths of nature; all night the eastwind streamed out of 
the valley seaward, and the stars blazed. 

The year went up to its annual mountain of death, gilded with 
hateful sunlight, waiting rain. 

Stagnant waters decayed, the trickling springs that all the misty- 
hooded summer had fed 

Pendulous green under the granite ocean-cliffs dried and turned 
foul, the rock-flowers faded, 

And Tamar felt in her blood the filth and fever of the season. 
Walking beside the house-wall 



Under her window, she resented sickeningly the wounds in the 
cypress bark, where Andrews 

Climbed to his tryst, disgust at herself choked her, and as a fire 
by water 

Under the fog-bank of the night lines all the sea and sky with 
fire, so her self-hatred 

Reflecting itself abroad burned back against her, all the world 
growing hateful, both her lovers 

Hateful, but the intolerably masculine sun hatefullest of all. 
The heat of the season 

Multiplied centipedes, the black worms that breed under loose 
rock, they call them thousand-leggers, 

They invaded the house, their phalloid bodies cracking under- 
foot with a bad odor, and dropped 

Ceiling to pillow at night, a vile plague though not poisonous. 
Also the sweet and female sea 

Was weak with calm, one heard too clearly a mounting cormo- 
rant's wing-claps half a mile off shore; 

The hard and dry and masculine tyrannized for a season. Rain 
in October or November 

Yearly avenges the balance; Tamar's spirit rebelled too soon, the 
female fury abiding 

In so beautiful a house of flesh. She came to her aunt the ghost- 
seer. "Listen to me, Aunt Stella. 

I think I am going mad, I must talk to the dead; Aunt Stella, 
will you help me?" That old woman 

Was happy and proud, no one for years had sought her for 
her talent. "Dear Tamar, I will help you. 

We must go down into the darkness, Tamar, it is hard and pain- 
ful for me." "I am in the darkness 

Already, a fiery darkness." "The good spirits will guide you, 
it is easy for you; for me, death. 

Death, Tamar, I have to die to reach them." "Death's no bad 
thing," she answered, "each hour of the day 

Has more teeth." "Are you so unhappy, Tamar, the good spirits 
will help you and teach you." "Aunt Stella, 

To-night, to-night?" "I groan when I go down to death, your 
father and brother will come and spoil it." 


"In the evening we will go under the rocks by the sea." "Well, 

in the evening." "If they talk to us 
I'll buy you black silk and white lace." 

In and out of the little fjord swam the weak waves 
Moving their foam in the twilight. Tamar at one flank, old 

Stella at the other, upheld poor Jinny 
Among the jags of shattered granite, so they came to the shingle. 

Rich, damp and dark the sea's breath 
Folding them made amend for days of sun-sickness, but Jinny 

among the rubble granite 
(They had no choice but take her along with them, who else 

would care for the idiot?) slipped, and falling 
Gashed knees and forehead, and she whimpered quietly in the 

darkness. "Here," said Tamar, "I made you 
A bed of seaweed under the nose of this old rock, let Jinny lie 

beside you, Aunt Stella, 
Fll lay the rug over you both." They lay on the odorous kelp, 

Tamar squatted beside them, 
The weak sea wavered in her rocks and Venus hung over the 

west between the cliff -butts 
Like the last angel of the world, the crystal night deepening. 

The sea and the three women 
Kept silence, only Tamar moved herself continually on the fret 

of her taut nerves, 
And the sea moved, on the obscure bed of her eternity, but 

both were voiceless. Tamar 
Felt her pulse bolt like a scared horse and stumble and stop, 

for it seemed to her a wandering power 
Essayed her body, something hard and rounded and invisible 

pressed itself for entrance 
Between the breasts, over the diaphragm. When she was forced 

backward and lay panting, the assault 
Failed, the presence withdrew, and in that clearance she heard 

her old Aunt Stella monotonously muttering 
Words with no meaning in them; but the tidal night under 

the cliff seemed full of persons 



With eyes, although there was no light but the evening planet's 

and her trail in the long water. 
Then came a man's voice from the woman, saying, "Que quieres 

pobrecita?" and Tamar, "Morir," 
Trembling, and marveling that she lied for no reason, and said, 

"Es porque no entiendo, 
Anything but ingles." To which he answered, "Ah pobrecita," 

and was silent. And Tamar 
Cried, "I will talk to that Helen." But instead another male throat 

spoke out of the woman's 
Unintelligible gutturals, and it ceased, and the woman changing 

voice, yet not to her own: 
"An Indian. He says his people feasted here and sang to their 

Gods and the tall Gods came walking 
Between the tide-marks on the rocks; he says to strip and dance 

and he will sing, and his Gods 
Come walking." Tamar answered, crying, "I will not, I will 

not, tell him to go away and let me 
Talk to that Helen." But old Stella after a silence: "He says No, 

no, the pregnant women 
Would always dance here and the shore belongs to his people's 

ghosts nor will they endure another 
Unless they are pleased." And Tamar said, "I cannot dance, 

drive him away," but while she said it 
Her hands accepting alien life and a strange will undid the 

fastenings of her garments. 
She panted to control them, tears ran down her cheeks, the 

male voice chanted 
Hoarse discords from the old woman's body, Tamar drew her 


Out of its husks; dwellers on eastern shores 
Watch moonrises as white as hers 
When the half-moon about midnight 
Steps out of her husk of water to dance in heaven: 
So Tamar weeping 

Slipped every sheath down to her feet, the spirit of the place 
Ruling her, she and the evening star sharing the darkness, 
And danced on the naked shore 


Where a pale couch of sand covered the rocks, 

Danced with slow steps and streaming hair, 

Dark and slender 

Against the pallid sea-gleam, slender and maidenly 

Dancing and weeping . . . 

It seemed to her that all her body 

Was touched and troubled with polluting presences 

Invisible, and whatever had happened to her from her two lovers 

She had been until that hour inviolately a virgin, 

Whom now the desires of dead men and dead Gods and a dead 


Used for their common prey . . . dancing and weeping, 
Slender and maidenly . . . The chant was changed, 
And Tamar's body responded to the change, her spirit 
Wailing within her. She heard the brutal voice 
And hated it, she heard old Jinny mimic it 
In the cracked childish quaver, but all her body 
Obeyed it, wakening into wantonness, 
Kindling with lust and wilder 
Coarseness of insolent gestures, 

The senses cold and averse, but the frantic too-governable flesh 
Inviting the assaults of whatever desired it, of dead men 
Or Gods walking the tide-marks, 
The beautiful girlish body as gracile as a maiden's 
Gone beastlike, crouching and widening, 
Agape to be entered, as the earth 
Gapes with harsh heat-cracks, the inland adobe of sun-worn 


At the end of summer 

Opening sick mouths for its hope of the rain, 
So her body gone mad 

Invited the spirits of the night, her belly and her breasts 
Twisting, her feet dashed with blood where the granite had 

bruised them, 

And she fell, and lay gasping on the sand, on the tide-line. 

Possessed the shore when the evening star was down; old Stella 



Was quiet in her trance; old Jinny the idiot clucked and par- 
roted to herself, there was none but the idiot 
Saw whether a God or a troop of Gods came swaggering along 

the tide-marks unto Tamar, to use her 
Shamefully and return from her, gross and replete shadows, 

swaggering along the tide-marks 
Against the sea-gleam. After a little the life came back to that 

fallen flower; for fear or feebleness 
She crept on hands and knees, returning so to the old medium 

of this infamy. Only 
The new tide moved in the night now; Tamar with her back 

bent like a bow and the hair fallen forward 
Crouched naked at old Stella's feet, and shortly heard the voice 

she had cried for. "I am your Helen. 
I would have wished you choose another place to meet me and 

milder ceremonies to summon me. 
We dead have traded power for wisdom, yet it is hard for us 

to wait on the maniac living 
Patiently, the desires of you wild beasts. You have the power." 

And Tamar murmured, "I had nothing, 
Desire nor power." And Helen, "Humbler than you were. She 

has been humbled, my little Tamar. 
And not so clean as the first lover left you, Tamar. Another and 

half a dozen savages, 

Dead, and dressed up for Gods." "I have endured it," she an- 
swered. Then the sweet disdainful voice 
In the throat of the old woman: "As for me, I chose rather to 

die." "How can I kill 
A dead woman," said Tamar in her heart, not moving the lips, 

but the other listened to thought 
And answered, "O, we are safe, we shan't fear murder. But, 

Tamar, the child will die, and all for nothing 
You were submissive by the river, and lived, and endured fouling. 

I have heard the wiser flights 
Of better spirits, that beat up to the breasts and shoulders of our 

Father above the star-fire, 
Say, 'Sin never buys anything.' " Tamar, kneeling, drew the 

thickness of her draggled hair 


Over her face and wept till it seemed heavy with blood; and 

like a snake lifting its head 
Out of a fire, she lifted up her face after a little and said, "It 

will live, and my father's 
Bitch be proved a liar." And the voice answered, and the tone 

of the voice smiled, "Her words 
Rhyme with her dancing. Tamar, did you know there were 

many of us to watch the dance you danced there, 
And the end of the dance? We on the cliff ; your mother, who 

used to hate me, was among us, Tamar. 
But she and I loved each only one man, though it were the 

same. We two shared one? You, Tamar, 
Are shared by many." And Tamar: "This is your help, I dug 

down to you secret dead people 
To help me and so I am helped now. What shall I ask more? 

How it feels when the last liquid morsel 

Slides from the bone? Or whether you see the worm that bur- 
rows up through the eye-socket, or thrill 
To the maggot's music in the tube of a dead ear? You stinking 

dead. That you have no shame 
Is nothing: I have no shame: see I am naked, and if my thighs 

were wet with dead beasts' drippings 
I have suffered no pollution like the worms in yours; and if I 

cannot touch you I tell you 

There are those I can touch. I have smelled fire and tasted fire, 
And all these days of horrible sunlight, fire 
Hummed in my ears, I have worn fire about me like a cloak and 

burning for clothing. It is God 
Who is tired of the house that thousand-leggers crawl about in, 

where an idiot sleeps beside a ghost-seer, 

A doting old man sleeps with dead women and does not know it, 
And pointed bones are at the doors 
Or climb up trees to the window. I say He has gathered 
Fire all about the walls and no one sees it 
But I, the old roof is ripe and the rafters 
Rotten for burning, and all the woods are nests of horrible things, 

nothing would ever clean them 



But fire, but I will go to a clean home by the good river." "You 

danced, Tamar," replied 
The sweet disdainful voice in the mouth of the old woman, "and 

now your song is like your dance, 
Modest and sweet. Only you have not said it was you, 
Before you came down by the sea to dance, 
That lit a candle in your closet and laid 
Paper at the foot of the candle. We were watching. 
And now the wick is nearly down to the heap, 
It's God will have fired the house? But Tamar, 
It will not burn. You will have fired it, your brother 
Will quench it, I think that God would hardly touch 
Anything in that house." "If you know everything," 
Cried Tamar, "tell me where to go. 
Now life won't do me and death is shut against me 
Because I hate you. O believe me I hate you dead people 
More than you dead hate me. Listen to me, Helen. 
There is no voice as horrible to me as yours, 
And the breasts the worms have worked in. A vicious berry 
Grown up out of the graveyard for my poison. 
But there is no one in the world as lonely as I, 
Betrayed by life and death." Like rain breaking a storm 
Sobs broke her voice. Holding by a jag of the cliff 
She drew herself full height. God who makes beauty 
Disdains no creature, nor despised that wounded 
Tired and betrayed body. She in the starlight 
And little noises of the rising tide 
Naked and not ashamed bore a third part 
With the ocean and keen stars in the consistence 
And dignity of the world. She was white stone, 
Passion and despair and grief had stripped away 
Whatever is rounded and approachable 
In the body of woman, hers looked hard, long lines 
Narrowing down from the shoulder-bones, no appeal, 
A weapon and no sheath, fire without fuel, 
Saying, "Have you anything more inside you 
Old fat and sleepy sepulcher, any more voices? 
You can do better than my father's by-play 



And the dirty tricks of savages, decenter people 

Have died surely. T have so passed nature 

That God himself, who's dead or all these devils 

Would never have broken hell, might speak out of you 

Last season thunder and not scare me." Old Stella 

Groaned but not spoke, old Jinny lying beside her 

Wakened at the word thunder and suddenly chuckling 

Began to mimic a storm, "whoo-whoo" for wind 

And "boom-boom-boom" for thunder. Other voices 

Wakened far off above the cliff, and suddenly 

The farm-bell ringing fire; and on the rock-islets 

Sleepy cormorants cried at it. "Why, now He speaks 

Another way than out of the fat throat," 

Cried Tamar, and prayed, "O strong and clean and terrible 

Spirit and not father punish the hateful house. 

Fire eat the walls and roofs, drive the red beast 

Through every wormhole of the rotting timbers 

And into the woods and into the stable, show them, 

These liars, that you are alive." Across her voice 

The bell sounded and old Jinny mimicking it, 

And shouts above the cliff. "Look, Jinny, look," 

Cried Tamar, "the sky'U be red soon, come and we'll dress 

And watch the bonfire." Yet she glanced no thought 

At her own mermaid nakedness but gathering 

The long black serpents of beached seaweed wove 

Wreaths for old Jinny and crowned and wound her. Meanwhile 

The bell ceased ringing and Stella ceased her moan, 

And in the sudden quietness, "Tamar," she said 

In the known voice of Helen so many years 

Dead, "though you hate me utterly, Tamar, I 

Have nothing to give back, I was quite emptied 

Of hate and love and the other fires of the flesh 

Before your mother gave the clay to my lover 

To mould you a vessel to hold them." Tamar, winding 

Her mindless puppet in the sea-slough mesh 

Said over her shoulder, hardly turning, "Why then 

Do you trouble whom you don't hate?" "Because we hunger 

And hunger for life," she answered. "Did I come uncalled? 


You called me, you have more hot and blind, wild-blooded 

And passionate life than any other creature. 

How could I ever leave you while the life lasts? 

God pity us both, a cataract life 

Dashing itself to pieces in an instant. 

You are my happiness, you are my happiness and death eats you. 

I'll leave you when you are empty and cold and join us. 

Then pity me, then Tamar, me flitting 

The chilly and brittle pumice-tips of the moon, 

While the second death 

Corrodes this shell of me, till it makes my end." 

But Tamar would not listen to her, too busily 

Decking old Jinny for the festival fire, 

And sighing that thin and envious ghost forsook 

Her instrument, and about that time harsh pain 

Wrung Tamar's loins and belly, and pain and terror 

Expelled her passionate fancies, she cried anxiously, 

"Stella, Aunt Stella, help me, will you?" and thinking, 

"She hears when Jinny whimpers," twistingly pinched 

Her puppet's arm until it screamed. Old Stella 

Sat up on the seaweed bed and turned white eyes 

No pupils broke the diffused star-gleam in 

Upon her sixty-year-old babe, that now 

Crouched whimpering, huddled under the slippery leaves 

And black whips of the beach; and by it stood gleaming 

Tamar, anguished, all white as the blank balls 

That swept her with no sight but vision: old Stella 

Did not awake yet but a voice blew through her, 

Not personal like the other, and shook her body 

And shook her hands: "It was no good to do too soon, your 

fire's out, you'd been patient for me 
It might have saved two fires." But Tamar: "Stella. 
I'm dying: or it is dying: wake up Aunt Stella. 
O pain, pain, help me." And the voice: "She is mine while I 

use her. Scream, no one will hear but this one 
Who has no mind, who has not more help than July rain." And 

Tamar, "What are you, what are you, mocking me? 



More dirt and another dead man? O," she moaned, pressing her 

flanks with both her hands, and bending 
So that her hair across her knees lay on the rock. It answered, 

"Not a voice from carrion. 
Breaker of trees and father of grass, shepherd of clouds and 

waters, if you had waited for me 
You'd be the luckier." "What shall I give you?" Tamar cried, 

"I have given away " Pain stopped her, and then 
Blood ran, and she fell down on the round stones, and felt nor 

saw nothing. A little later 
Old Stella Moreland woke out of her vision, sick and shaking. 

Tamar's mind and suffering 
Returned to her neither on the sea-rocks of the midnight nor 

in her own room; but she was lying 
Where Lee her brother had lain, nine months before, after his 

fall, in the big westward bedroom. 
She lay on the bed, and in one corner was a cot for Stella who 

nursed her, and in the other 
A cot for the idiot, whom none else would care for but old 

Stella. After the ache of awakening 
And blank dismay of the spirit come home to a spoiled house, 

she lay thinking with vacant wonder 
That life is always an old story, repeating itself always like the 

leaves of a tree 

Or the lips of an idiot; that herself like Lee her brother 
Was picked up bleeding from the sea-boulders under the sea- 
cliff and carried up to be laid 
In the big westward bedroom . . . was he also fouled with 

ghosts before they found him, a gang 
Of dead men beating him with rotten bones, mouthing his body, 

piercing him? "Stella," she whispered, 
"Have I been sick long?" "There, sweetheart, lie still; three or 

four days." "Has Lee been in to see me?" 
"Indeed he has, hours every day." "He'll come, then," and she 

closed her eyes and seemed to sleep. 
Someone tapped at the door after an hour and Tamar said, 

"Come, Lee." But her old father 



Came in, and he said nothing, but sat down by the bed; Tamar 

had closed her eyes. In a little 
Lee entered, and he brought a chair across the room and sat by 

the bed. "Why don't you speak, 
Lee?" And he said, "What can I say except I love you, sister?" 

"Why do you call me sister, 
Not Tamar?" And he answered, "I love you, Tamar." Then old 

Aunt Stella said, "See, she's much better. 
But you must let her rest. She'll be well in a few days; now kiss 

her, Lee, and let her rest." 
Lee bent above the white pure cameo-face on the white pillow, 

meaning to kiss the forehead. 
But Tamar's hands caught him, her lips reached up for his: while 

Jinny the idiot clapped and chuckled 
And made a clucking noise of kisses; then, while Lee sought to 

untwine the arms that yoked his neck, 
The old man, rising: "I opened the Book last night thinking 

about the sorrows of this house, 
And it said, 'If a man find her in the field and force her and lie 

with her, nevertheless the damsel 
Has not earned death, for she cried out and there was none to 

save her.' Be glad, Tamar, my sins 
Are only visited on my son, for you there is mercy." "David, 

Will you be gone and let her rest now," cried old Stella, "do 

you mean to kill her with a bible?" 
"Woman," he answered, "has God anything to do with you? 

She will not die, the Book 
Opened and said it." Tamar, panting, leaned against the pillow 

and said, "Go, go. To-morrow 
Say all you please; what does it matter?" And the old man said, 

"Come, Lee, in the morning she will hear us." 
Tamar stretched out her trembling hand, Lee did not touch it, 

but went out ahead of his father. 
So they were heard in the hall, and then their footsteps on the 

stair. Tamar lay quiet and rigid, 
With open eyes and tightening fists, with anger like a coiled steel 

spring in her throat but weakness 



And pain for the lead weights. After an hour she said, "What 

does he mean to do? Go away? 
Kill himself, Stella?" Stella answered, "Nothing, nothing, they 

talk, it's to keep David quiet. 
Your father is off his head a little, you know. Now rest you, 

little Tamar, smile and be sleepy, 
Scold them to-morrow." "Shut the sun out of my eyes then," 

Tamar said, but the idiot Jinny 
Made such a moaning when the windows were all curtained they 

needed to let in one beam 
For dust to dance in; then the idiot and the sick girl slept. About 

the hour of sundown 
Tamar was dreaming triviallyan axman chopping down a tree 

and field-mice scampering 

Out of the rootswhen suddenly like a shift of wind the dream 
Changed and grew awful, she watched dark horsemen coming 

out of the south, squadrons of hurrying horsemen 
Between the hills and the dark sea, helmeted like the soldiers of 

the war in France, 

Carrying torches. When they passed Mai Paso Creek the columns 
Veered, one of the riders said, "Here it began," but another 

answered, "No. Before the granite 

Was bedded to build the world on." So they formed and gal- 
loped north again, hurrying squadrons, 
And Tamar thought, "When they come to the Carmel River 

then it will happen. They have passed Mai Paso." 

Who has ever guessed to what odd ports, what sea buoying the 

keels, a passion blows its bulkless 
Navies of vision? High up in the hills 
Ramon Ramirez, who was herdsman of the Cauldwell herds, 

stood in his cabin doorway 
Rolling a cigarette a half -hour after sundown, and he felt puffs 

from the south 
Come down the slope of stunted redwoods, so he thought the 

year was turning at last, and shortly 



There would come showers; he walked therefore a hundred 

yards to westward, where a point of the hill 
Stood over Wildcat Canyon and the sea was visible; he saw 

Point Lobos gemmed in the darkening 

Pale yellow sea; and on the point the barn-roofs and the house- 
roof breaking up through the blackness 
Of twilight cypress tops, and over the sea a cloud forming. The 

evening darkened. Southwestward 
A half-mile loop of the coast-road could be seen, this side Mai 

Paso. Suddenly a nebular company 
Of lights rounded the hill, Ramirez thought the headlights of 

a car sweeping the road, 
But in a moment saw that it was horsemen, each carrying a light, 

hurrying northward, 
Moving in squads he judged of twenty or twenty-five, he counted 

twelve or thirteen companies 
When the brush broke behind him and a horseman rode the 

headlong ridge like level ground, 
Helmeted, carrying a torch. Followed a squad of twelve, hel- 

meted, cantering the headlong ridge 
Like level ground. He thought in the nervous innocence of the 

early war, they must be Germans. 

Tamar awoke out of her dream and heard old Jinny saying, 

"Dear sister Helen, kiss me 
As you kiss David. I was watching under a rock, he took your 

clothes off and you kissed him 
So hard and hard, I love you too, Helen; you hardly ever kiss 

me." Tamar lay rigid, 
Breathless to listen to her; it was well known in the house that 

under the shell of imbecility 
Speech and a spirit, however subdued, existed still; there were 

waking flashes, and more often 
She talked in sleep and proved her dreams were made out of 

clear memories, childhood sights and girlhood 
Fancies, before the shadow had fallen; so Tamar craving food 

for passion listened to her, 



And heard: "Why are you cross, Helen? I won't peek if you'd 

rather I didn't. Darling Helen, 
I love him, too; I'd let him play with me the way he does with 

you if he wanted to. 
And Lily and Stella hate me as much as they hate you." All 

she said after was so mumbled 
That Tamar could not hear it, could only hear the mumble, and 

old Aunt Stella's nasal sleep 
And the sea murmuring. When the mumbled voice was quiet it 

seemed to Tamar 

A strange thing was preparing, an inward pressure 
Grew in her throat and seemed to swell her arms and hands 
And join itself with a fluid power 
Streaming from somewhere in the room from Jinny? 
From Stella? and in a moment the heavy chair 
That Lee had sat in, tipped up, rose from the floor, 
And floated to the place he had brought it from 
Five hours ago. The power was then relaxed, 
And Tamar could breathe and speak. She awaked old Stella 
And trembling told her what she had seen; who laughed 
And answered vaguely so that Tamar wondered 
Whether she was still asleep, and let her burrow 
In her bed again and sleep. Later that night 
Tamar too slept, but shudderingly, in snatches, 
For fear of dreaming. A night like years. In the gray of morning 
A horse screamed from the stableyard and Tamar 
Heard the thud of hooves lashing out and timbers 
Splintering, and two or three horses broken loose 
Galloped about the grounds of the house. She heard men calling, 
And downstairs Lee in a loud angry tone 
Saying "Someone's pitched the saw-buck and the woodpile 
Into the horse-corral." Then Tamar thought 
"The same power moved his chair in the room, my hatred, my 


Disturbing the house because I failed to burn it. 
I must be quiet and quiet and quiet and keep 
The serving spirits of my hid hatred quiet 
Until my rime serves too. Helen you shadow 


Were never served so handily." Stella had awakened, 

And Tamar asking for a drink of water 

She waddled to fetch it and met Lee at the door. 

"O Lee," she said, "that noise what ever has happened?" 

He: "I don't know. Some fool has pitched the whole woodpile 

Into the horse-corral. Is Tamar awake? 

I want to see Tamtr." He entered the room 

As Stella left it. Old withered Aunt Jinny 

Sat up in her bed saying "David, David," but Lee 

Kneeling at Tamar's bedside, "O Tamar, Tamar. 

The old man's outdoors tottering after the horses 

So I can see you a minute. O why, why, why, 

Didn't you tell me Tamar? I'd have taken you up 

In my arms and carried you to the end of the world." 

"How it's turned sour," she thought, "I'd have been glad of this 

Yesterday," and she clinched her finger-nails 

Into her palms under the bed-covers, 

Saying, "Tell you what? What have they told you," she asked 

With a white sidelong smile, "people are always lying?" 

"Tamar, that you that we ... O I've lived hell 

Four or five days now." "You look well enough," 

She answered, "put yours by mine," laying her white, lean, 

And somewhat twitching hand on the counterpane, 

"Mine used to manage a bridle as well as yours 

And now look at them. I don't suppose you want me 

Now, but it doesn't matter. You used to come to my bed 

With something else than pity, convenient, wasn't it? 

Not having to ride to Monterey?" He answered frowning, 

"However much you hurt me I am very glad too 

That all the joys and memories of a love 

As great and as forbidden as ours are nothing to you 

Or worse than nothing, because I have to go away, 

Two days from now, and stay rill the war's over 

And you are married and father is dead. I've promised him 

Never to see him again, never to see his face. 

He didn't ask it because he thinks his Book 

Told him I'm to be killed. That's foolishness, 

But makes your peace with him and thank God for that. 



What his Book told him." "So here's the secret 

I wasn't strong enough yesterday to hear. 

I thought maybe you meant to kill yourself." 

"Thanks, Tamar. The old man thinks I don't need to." "O, 

You beast," she said, "you runaway dog. 

I wish you joy of your dirty Frenchwomen 

You want instead of me. Take it, take it. 

Old people in their dotage gabble the truth, 

You won't live long." "What can I say, Tamar? 

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." "But go away," 

She said, "and if you'll come again to-night 

Maybe I'll tell you mine, my secret." 

That morning 

Ramon Ramirez who watched the Cauldwell cattle 
Up in the hills kept thinking of his vision 
Of helmets carrying torches; he looked for tracks 
On the ridge where he had seen the riders cantering, 
And not a bush was broken, not a hoof-mark 
Scarred the sear grass. At noon he thought he'd ride 
To Vogel's place taking his lunch in the saddle 
And tell someone about it. At the gap in the hill 
Where storm-killed redwoods line both sides he met 
Johnny Cabrera with a flaming bundle 
Of dead twigs and dry grass tied with brown cord. 
He smelled the smoke and saw the flame sag over 
On a little wind from the east, and said in Spanish 
"Eh Johnny, are you out of matches?" who answered flashing 
His white teeth in a smile, "I'm carrying fire to Lobos 
If God is willing," and walked swinging ahead, 
Singing to himself the fool south-border couplet 
"No tengo tabaco, no tengo papel, 
No tengo dinero, God damn it to hell," 
And Ramon called "Hey Johnny," but he would not stop 
Nor answer, and thinking life goes wild at times 
Ramon came to the hill-slope under Vogel's 
And smelled new smoke and saw the clouds go up 
And this same Johnny with two other men 
Firing the brush to make spring pasture. Ramon 



Felt the scalp tighten on his temples and thought best 

Not to speak word of either one of his visions, 

Though he talked with the men, they told him Tamar Cauldwell 

Was sick, and Lee had enlisted. 

The afternoon 

Was feverish for so temperate a sea-coast 
And terribly full of light, the sea like a hard mirror 
Reverberated the straight and shining serpents 
That fell from heaven and Tamar dreamed in a doze 
She was hung naked by that tight cloth bandage 
Half-way between sea and sky, beaten on by both, 
Burning with light; wakening she found she had tumbled 
The bed-clothes to the floor and torn her nightgown 
To rags, and was alone in the room, and blinded 
By the great glare of sun in the western windows. 
She rose and shut the curtains though they had told her 
She mustn't get out of bed, and finding herself 
Able to walk she stood by the little window 
That looked southeast from the south bay of the room 
And saw the smoke of burning brushwood slopes 
Tower up out of the hills in the windless weather 
Like an enormous pinetree, "Everybody 
But me has luck with fire," she thought to herself, 
"But I can walk now," and returned to bed 
And drew the sheets over her flanks, but leaving 
The breasts and the shoulders bare. In half an hour 
Stella and old Jinny came into the room 
With the old man David Cauldwell. Stella hastily 
Drew up the sheet to Tamar's throat but Tamar 
Saying, "You left the curtains open and the sun 
Has nearly killed me," doubled it down again, 
And David Cauldwell, trembling: "Will you attempt 
Age and the very grave, uncovering your body 
To move the old bones that seventy years have broken 
And dance your bosoms at me through a mist of death? 
Though I know that you and your brother have utterly despised 
The bonds of blood, and daughter and father are no closer 



And though this house spits out all goodness, I am old, I am old, 

I am old, 

What do you want of me?" He stood tottering and wept, 
Covering his eyes and beard with shaken old hands, 
And Tamar, having not moved, "Nothing," she said, 
"Nothing, old man. I have swum too deep into the mud 
For this to sicken me; and as you say, there are neither 
Brother nor sister, daughter nor father, nor any love 
This side the doorways of the damnable house. 
But I have a wildbeast of a secret hidden 
Under the uncovered breast will eat us all up 
Before Lee goes." "It is a lie, it is a lie, it is all a lie. 
Stella you must go out, go out of the room Stella, 
Not to hear the sick and horrible imaginations 
A sick girl makes for herself. Go Stella." "Indeed I won't, 
David." "You youit is still my house." "To let you kill her 

with bad words 

All out of the bible indeed I won't." "Go, Stella," said Tamar, 
"Let me talk to this old man, and see who has suffered 
When you come back. I am out of pity, and you and Jinny 
Will be less scorched on the other side of the door." After a 

third refusal 
The old woman went, leading her charge, and Tamar: "You 

thought it was your house? It is me they obey. 
It is mine, I shall destroy it. Poor old man I have earned 

authority." "You have gone mad," he answered. 
And she: "I'll show you our trouble, you sinned, your old book 

calls it, and repented: that was foolish. 

I was unluckier, I had no chance to repent, so I learned some- 
thing, we must keep sin pure 
Or it will poison us, the grain of goodness in a sin is poison. 

Old man, you have no conception 
Of the freedom of purity. Lock the door, old man, I am telling 

you a secret." But he trembling, 
"O God thou hast judged her guiltless, the Book of thy word 

spake it, thou hast the life of the young man 
My son . . ." and Tamar said, "Tell God we have revoked 

relationship in the house, he is not 



Your son nor you my father." "Dear God, blot out her words, 

she has gone mad. Tamar, I will lock it, 
Lest anyone should come and hear you, and I will wrestle for 

you with God, I will not go out 
Until you are His." He went and turned the key and Tamar 

said, "I told you I have authority. 
You obey me like the others, we pure have power. Perhaps 

there are other ways, but I was plunged 
In the dirt of the world to win it, and, O father, so I will call 

you this last time, dear father 
You cannot think what freedom and what pleasure live in having 

abjured laws, in having 
Annulled hope, I am now at peace." "There is no peace, there 

is none, there is none, there is no peace 
But His," he stammered, "but God's." "Not in my arms, old 

man, on these two little pillows? Your son 
Found it there, and another, and dead men have defiled me. 

You that are half dead and half living, 
Look, poor old man. That Helen of yours, when you were 

young, where was her body more desirable, 
Or was she lovinger than I? You know it is forty years ago 

that we revoked 

Relationships in the house." "He never forgives, He never for- 
gives, evil punishes evil 
With the horrible mockery of an echo." "Is the echo louder 

than the voice, I have surpassed her, 
Yours was the echo, time stands still old man, you'll learn when 

you have lived at the muddy root 
Under the rock of things; all times are now, to-day plays on 

last year and the inch of our future 
Made the first morning of the world. You named me for the 

monument in a desolate graveyard, 
Fool, and I say you were deceived, it was out of me that fire lit 

you and your Helen, your body 
Joined with your sister's 
Only because I was to be named Tamar and to love my brother 

and my father. 



I am the fountain." But he, shuddering, moaned, "You have gone 

mad, you have gone mad, Tamar," 
And twisted his old hands muttering, "I fear hell. O Tamar, the 

nights I have spent in agony, 
Ages of pain, when the eastwind ran like glass under the peeping 

stars or the southwest wind 
Plowed in the blackness of the tree. You a little thing has 

driven you mad, a moment of suffering, 
But I for more than forty years have lain under the mountains 

and looked down into hell." 
"One word," she said, "that was not written in the book of my 

fears. I did indeed fear pain 
Before peace found me, or death, never that dream. Old man, 

to be afraid is the only hell 
And dead people are quit of it, I have talked with the dead." 

"Have you with her?" "Your pitiful Helen? 
She is always all about me; if you lay in my arms old man you 

would be with her. Look at me, 
Have you forgotten your Helen?" He in torture 
Groaned like a beast, but when he approached the bed she 

laughed, "Not here, behind you." And he blindly 
Clutching at her, she left the coverlet in his hands and slipping 

free at the other side 
Saw in a mirror on the wall her own bright throat and shoulder 

and just beyond them the haggard 
Open-mouthed mask, the irreverend beard and blind red eyes. 

She caught the mirror from its fastening 

And held it to him, reverse. "Here is her picture, Helen's pic- 
ture, look at her, why is she always 
Crying and crying?" When he turned the frame and looked, 

then Tamar: "See that is her lover's. 
The hairy and horrible lips to kiss her, the drizzling eyes to eat 

her beauty, happiest of women 
If only he were faithful; he is too young and wild and lovely, 

and the lusts of his youth 
Lead him to paw strange beds." The old man turned the glass 

and gazed at the blank side, and turned it 



Again face toward him, he seemed drinking all the vision in it, 

and Tamar: "Helen, Helen, 
I know you are here present; was I humbled in the night lately 

and you exulted? 
See here your lover. I think my mother will not envy you now, 

your lover, Helen, your lover, 
The mouth to kiss you, the hands to fondle secret places." Then 

the old man sobbing, "It is not easy 
To be old, mocked, and a fool." And Tamar, "What, not yet, 

you have not gone mad yet? Look, old fellow. 
These rags drop off, the bandages hid something but I'm done 

with them. See ... I am the fire 
Burning the house." "What do you want, what do you want?" 

he said, and stumbled toward her, weeping. 
"Only to strangle a ghost and to destroy the house. Spit on the 

memory of that Helen 
You might have anything of me." And he groaning, "When I 

was young 
I thought it was my fault, I am old and know it was hers, night 

after night, night after night 
I have lain in the dark, Tamar, and cursed her." "And now?" 

"I hate her, Tamar." "O," said Tamar gently, 
"It is enough, she has heard you. Now unlock the door, old 

father, and go, and go." "Your promise, 
Tamar, the promise, Tamar." "Why I might do it, I have no 

feeling of revolt against it. 
Though you have forgotten that fear of hell why should I let 


Be mocked by God?" And he, the stumpage of his teeth knock- 
ing together, "You think, you think 
I'll go to the stables and a rope from a rafter 
Finish it for you?" "Dear, I am still sick," she answered, "you 

don't want to kill me? A man 
Can wait three days: men have lived years and years on the 

mere hope." 

Meanwhile the two old women 
Sat in their room, old Stella sat at the window looking south 

into the cypress boughs, and Jinny 



On her bed's edge, rocking her little withered body backward 

and forward, and said vacantly, 
"Helen, what do you do the times you lock the door to be 

alone, and Lily and Stella 
Wonder where David's ridden to?" After a while she said again, 

"Do tell me, sister Helen, 
What you are doing the times you lock the door to be alone, 

and Lily and Stella wonder 
Where David's ridden to?" And a third time she repeated, 

"Darling sister Helen, tell me 
What you are doing the times you lock the door to be alone, 

and Lily and Stella wonder 
Where David's riding?" Stella seemed to awake, catching at 

breath, and not in her own voice, 
"What does she mean," she said, "my picture, picture? O! the 

mirror I read in a book Jinny. 
A story about lovers; I never had a lover, I read about them; 

I won't look, though. 
With all that blind abundance, so much of life and blood, that 

sweet and warming blaze of passion, 
She has also a monkey in her mind." "Tell me the story about 

the picture." "Ugh, if she plans 

To humble herself utterly . . . You may peek, Jinny, 
Try if you can, shut both eyes, draw them back into your fore- 
head, and look, look, look 
Over the eyebrows, no, like this, higher up, up where the hair 

grows, now peek Jinny. Can't you 
See through the walls? You can. Look, look, Jinny. As if they'd 

cut a window. I used to tell you 
That God could see into caves: you are like God now: peek, 

Jinny." "I can see something. 
It's in the stable, David's come from Monterey, he's hanging 

the saddle on a peg there . . ." 
"Jinny, I shall be angry. That's not David, 
It's Lee, don't look into the stable, look into the bedroom, you 

know, Jinny, the bedroom, 
Where we left Tamar on the bed." "O that's too near, it hurts 

me, it hurts my head, don't scold me, Helen. 



How can I see if I'm crying? I see now clearly." 

"What do you see?" "I see through walls, O, I'm like God, 

Helen. I see the wood and plaster 
And see right through them." "What? What are they doing?" 

"How can you be there and here, too, Helen?" 
"It's Tamar, what is she doing?" "I know it's you Helen, be- 
cause you have no hair 
Under the arms, I see the blue veins under the arms." "Well, if 

it's me, what is she doing? 
Is she on the bed? What is she saying?" "She is on fire Helen, 

she has white fire all around you 
Instead of clothes, and that is why you are laughing with so 

pale a face." "Does she let him do 
Whatever he wants to, Jinny?" "He says that he hates . . . 

somebody . . . and then you laughed for he had a rope 
Around his throat a moment, the beard stuck out over it." "O 

Jinny it wasn't I that laughed 
It was that Tamar, Tamar, Tamar, she has bought him for 

nothing. She and her mother both to have him, 
The old hollow fool." "What do they want him for, Helen?" 

"To plug a chink, to plug a chink, Jinny, 
In the horrible vanity of women. Lee's come home, now I 

could punish her, she's past hurting, 
Are they huddled together Jinny? What, not yet, not yet?" 

"You asked for the key but when he held it 
You ran away from him." "What do I want, what do I want, 

it is frightful to be dead, what do I ... 
Without power, and no body or face. To kill her, kill her? 
There's no hell and curse God for it . . ." 

Lee Cauldwell childishly 

Loved hearing the spurs jingle, and because he felt 
"After to-morrow I shan't wear them again, 
Nor straddle a pony for many a weary month and year, 
Maybe forever," he left them at his heels 
When he drew off the chaps and hung the saddle 
On the oak peg in the stable-wall. He entered the house 
Slowly, he had taken five drinks in Monterey 



And saw his tragedy of love, sin, and war 

At the disinterested romantic angle 

Misted with not unpleasing melancholy, 

Over with, new adventure ahead, a perilous cruise 

On the other ocean, and great play of guns 

On the other shore ... at the turn of the stair he heard 

Hands hammering a locked door, and a voice unknown to him 

Crying, "Tamar, I loved you for your flame of passion 

And hated you for its deeds, all that we dead 

Can love or hate with: and now will you crust flame 

With filth, submit? Submit? Tamar, 

The defilement of the rideline dead was nothing 

To this defilement." Then Lee jingling his spurs, 

Jumped four steps to the landing, "Who is there? You, 

Aunt Stella?" Old gray Aunt Jinny like a little child 

Moaning dr'ew back from him, and the mouth of Stella: 

"A man that's ready to cross land and water 

To set the world in order can't be expected 

To leave his house in order." And Lee, "Listen, Aunt Stella, 

Who are you playing, I mean what voice out of the world of 

the dead 

Is speaking from you?" She answered, "Nothing. I was some- 

Forty years back but now I'm only the bloodhound 
To bay at the smell of what they're doing in there." 
"Who? Tamar? Blood?" "Too close in blood, I am the blood- 

On the doorsill of a crime, she does her business 
Under her own roof mostly." "Tamar, Tamar," 
Lee called, shaking the door. She from within 
Answered "I am here, Lee. Have you said good-by 
To Nita and Conchita in Monterey 
And your fat Fanny? But who is the woman at the door 
Making the noise?" He said, "Open the door; 
Open the door, Tamar." And she, "I opened it for you, 
You are going to France to knock at other doors. 
I opened it for you and others." "What others?" "Ask her," 
Said the young fierce voice from old Aunt Stella's lips, 


"What other now?" "She is alone there," he answered, 

"A devil is in you. Tamar," he said, "tell her 

You are alone." "No, Lee, I am asking in earnest, 

Who is the woman making the noise out there? 

Someone you've brought from Monterey? Tell her to go: 

Father is here." "Why have you locked it, why have you 

locked it?" 

He felt the door-knob turning in his hand 
And the key shook the lock; Tamar stood in the doorway 
Wrapped in a loose blue robe that the auburn hair 
Burned on, and beyond her the old man knelt by the bed, 
His face in the lean twisted hands. "He was praying for me," 
Tamar said quietly. "You are leaving to-morrow, 
He has only one child." Then the old man lifting a face 
From which the flesh seemed to have fallen, and the eyes 
Dropped and been lost: "What will you do to him, Tamar? 
Tamar, have mercy. 

He was my son, years back." She answered, "I am glad 
That you know who has power in the house"; and he 
Hid the disfigured face, between his wrists 
The beard kept moving, they thought him praying to God. 
And Tamar said, "It is coming to the end of the bad story, 
That needn't have been bad only we fools 
Botch everything, but a dead fool's the worst, 
This old man's sister who rackets at the doors 
And drove me mad, although she is nothing but a voice, 
Dead, shelled, and the shell rotted, but she had to meddle 
In the decencies of life here. Lee, if you truly 
Lust for the taste of a French woman I'll let you go 
For fear you die unsatisfied and plague 
Somebody's children with a ghost's hungers 
Forty years after death. Do I care, do I care? 
You shan't go, Lee. I told the old man I have a secret 
That will eat us all up ... and then, dead woman, 
What will you have to feed on? You spirits flicker out 
Too speedily, forty years is a long life for a ghost 
And you will only famish a little longer 
To whom I'd wish eternity." "O Tamar, Tamar," 



It answered out of Stella's mouth, "has the uttermost 

Not taught you anything yet, not even that extinction 

Is the only terror?" "You lie too much," she answered, 

"You'll enter it soon and not feel any stitch 

Of fear afterwards. Listen, Lee, your arms 

Were not the first man's to encircle me, and that spilled life 

Losing which let me free to laugh at God, 

I think you had no share in." He trembled, and said 

"O Tamar has your sickness and my crime 

Cut you so deep? A lunatic in a dream 

Dreams nearer things than this." "I'd never have told you," 

She answered, "if his vicious angerafter I'd balanced 

Between you a long time and then chose you 

Hadn't followed his love's old night-way to my window 

And kindled fire in the room when I was gone, 

The spite-fire that might easily have eaten up 

And horribly, our helpless father, or this innocent 

Jinny . . ." "He did it, he did it, forgive me, Tamar. 

I thought that you gone mad . . . Tamar, I know 

That you believe what you are saying but I 

Do not believe you. There was no one." "The signal 

Was a lamp in the window, perhaps some night 

He'd come still if you'd set a lamp into my window. 

And when he climbed out of the cypress tree 

Then you would know him." "I would mark him to know. 

But it's not true." "Since I don't sleep there now 

You might try for the moth; if he doesn't come 

I'll tell you his name to-morrow." Then the old man jerking 

Like dry bones wired pulled himself half erect 

With clutching at the bed-clothes: "Have mercy, Tamar. 

Lee, there's a trick in it, she is a burning fire, 

She is packed with death. I have learned her, I have learned her, 

I have learned her, 

Too cruel to measure strychnine, too cunning-cruel 
To snap a gun, aiming ourselves against us." 
Lee answered, "There is almost nothing here to understand. 
If we all did wrong why have we all gone mad 
But me, I haven't a touch of it. Listen, dead woman, 


Do you feel any light here?" "Fire as much light 

As a bird needs," the voice from the old woman 

Answered, "I am the gull on the butt of the mast 

Watching the ship founder, I'll fly away home 

When you go down, or a swallow above a chimney 

Watching the brick and mortar fly in the earthquake." 

'Til just go look at the young cypress bark 

Under her window," he said, "it might have taken 

The bite of a thief's hobnails." When he was gone 

And jingling down the stair, then Tamar: "Poor people, 

Why do you cry out so? I have three witnesses, 

The old man that died to-day, and a dead woman 

Forty years dead, and an idiot, and only one of you 

Decently quiet. There is the great and quiet water 

Reaching to Asia, and in an hour or so 

The still stars will show over it but I am quieter 

Inside than even the ocean or the stars. 

Though I have to kindle paper flares of passion 

Sometimes, to fool you with. But I was thinking 

Last night, that people all over the world 

Are doing much worse and suffering much more than we 

This wartime, and the stars don't wink, and the ocean 

Storms perhaps less than usual." Then the dead woman, 

"Wild life, she has touched the ice-core of things and learned 

Something, that frost burns worse than fire." "O, it's not true," 

She answered, "frost is kind; why, almost nothing 

You say is true. Helen, do you remember at all 

The beauty and strangeness of this place? Old cypresses 

The sailor wind works into deep-sea knots 

A thousand years; age-reddened granite 

That was the world's cradle and crumbles apieces 

Now that we're all grown up, breaks out at the roots; 

And underneath it the old gray-granite strength 

Is neither glad nor sorry to take the seas 

Of all the storms forever and stand as firmly 

As when the red hawk wings of the first dawn 

Streamed up the sky over it: there is one more beautiful thing, 

Water that owns the north and west and south 



And is all colors and never is all quiet, 

And the fogs are its breath and float along the branches of 

the cypresses. 

And I forgot the coals of ruby lichen 
That glow in the fog on the old twigs. To live here 
Seventy-five years or eighty, and have children, 
And watch these things fill up their eyes, would not 
Be a bad life . . . I'd rather be what I am, 
Feeling this peace and joy, the fire's joy's burning, 
And I have my peace." Then the old man in the dull 
And heartless voice answered, "The strangest thing 
Is that He never speaks: we know we are damned, why should 

He speak? The book 

Is written already. Cauldwell, Cauldwell, Cauldwell, Cauldwell. 
Eternal death, eternal wrath, eternal torture, eternity, eternity, 

eternity . . . 
That's after the judgment." "You needn't have any fear, old 

Of anything to happen after to-morrow," Tamar answered, "we 

have turned every page 
But the last page, and now our paper's so worn out and tissuey 

I can read it already 
Right through the leaf, print backwards." 

It was twilight in the 

room, the shiny side of the wheel 

Dipping toward Asia; and the year dipping toward winter en- 
crimsoned the grave spokes of sundown; 
And jingling in the door Lee Cauldwell with the day's-death 

flush upon his face: "Father: 
There are marks on the cypress: a hell of a way to send your 

soldier off: I want to talk to her 
Alone. You and the women " he flung his hand out, meaning 

"go." The old man without speaking 
Moved to the door, propping his weakness on a chair and on 

the door-frame, and Lee entering 
Passed him and the two women followed him three, if Stella 

were onebut when they had passed the doorway 



Old Cauldwcll turned, and tottering in it: "Death is the horror," 

he said, "nothing else lasts, pain passes, 
Death's the only trap. I am much too wise to swing myself in 

the stable on a rope from a rafter. Helen, Helen, 
You know about death." "It is cold," she answered from the 

hallway; "unspeakably hopeless . . ." "You curse of talkers, 
Go," he said, and he shut the door against them and said, "Slut, 

how many, how many?" She, laughing, 
"I knew you would be sweet to me: I am still sick: did you find 

marks in the bark? I am still sick, Lee; 
You don't intend killing me?" "Flogging, whipping, whipping, 

is there anything male about here 
You haven't used yet? Agh you mouth, you open mouth. But 

I won't touch you." "Let me say something," 
She answered, standing dark against the west in the window, the 

death of the winter rose of evening 
Behind her little high-poised head, and threading the brown 

twilight of the room with the silver 
Exultance of her voice, "My brother can you feel how happy 

I am but how far off too? 
If I have done wrong it has turned good to me, I could almost 

be sorry that I have to die now 
Out of such freedom; if I were standing back of the evening 

crimson on a mountain in Asia 
All the fool shames you can whip up into a filth of words would 

not be farther off me, 
Nor any fear of anything, if I stood in the evening star and saw 

this dusty dime's worth 
A dot of light, dropped up the star-gleam. Poor brother, poor 

brother, you played the fool too 
But not enough, it is not enough to taste delight and passion and 

disgust and loathing 
And agony, you have to be wide alive, 'an open mouth' you 

said, all the while, to reach this heaven 
You'll never grow up to. Though it's possible if I'd let you 

go asoldiering, there on the dunghills 
Of death and fire ... ah, you'd taste nothing even there but 

the officers' orders, beef and brandy, 



And the tired bodies of a few black-eyed French dance-girls: 

it is better for you 
To be lost here than there." "You are up in the evening star," 

he said, "you can't feel this," flat-handed 
Striking her cheek, "you are up on a mountain in Asia, who 

made you believe that you could keep me 
Or let me go? I am going to-morrow, to-night I set the house 

in order." "There is nothing now 
You can be sorry for," she answered, "not even this, it is out 

of the count, the cup ran over 
Yesterday." He turned and left the room, the foolish tune of 

the spurs tinkled 
Hallway and stair. Tamar, handling the fiery spot upon her 

cheek smiled in the darkness, 
Feeling so sure of the end. "Night after night he has ridden to 

the granite at the rivermouth 
And missed my light, to-night he will see it, the Lobos star he 

called it, and look and look to be sure 
It is not a ship's light nor a star's, there in the south, then he 

will come, and my three lovers 
Under one roof." 


Lee Cauldwell felt his way in the dark among the cypress trees, 

and turning 

At the stable-door saw the evening star, he felt for the lantern 
Hung on the bent nail to the right of the door, 
Lighted it, and in the sweet hay-dusty darkness 
Found the black quirt that hung beside the saddle 
And seemed a living snake in the hand, then he opened 
A locker full of hunter's gear and tumbled 
Leather and iron to the floor for an old sheath-knife 
Under all the rest; he took the knife and whip 
And Tamar in the dark of the westward bedroom heard him 
Tinkle on the stair and jingle in the hall, slow steps 
Moving to hers, the room that had been her room 
Before this illness; she felt him as if she had been there 
Lighting her lamp and setting it on the sill, 



Then felt him look about the little room and feel it 

Breathing and warm with her once habitancy 

And the hours of hers and his there, and soften almost 

To childish tears at trifles on the wall-, 

And then he would look at the bed and stiffen 

In a brittle rage, feel with thrust under-lip 

Virtuous, an outcrop of morality in him 

To grow ridiculous and wish to be cruel, 

And so return to her. Hastily, without light, 

She redded up some of the room's untidiness, 

Thrust into the stove the folds of bandage-cloth, 

Straightened the bed a little, and laying aside 

The loose blue robe lay down in the bed to await him, 

Who, throwing open the door, "Tamar: I've got no right 

To put my hands into your life, I see 

That each of us lives only a little while 

And must do what he can with it: so, I'm going 

To-night; I'd nearly worked myself to the act 

Of some new foolishness: are you there, Tamar? 

The lamp?" He struck a match and saw her eyes 

Shine on him from the pillow and when the lamp 

Was lighted he began again: "It's all such foolishness. 

Well, you and I are done. I set your lamp for a signal on the 


I'll take it away or help you to that room, 
Whichever you like. That'll be my last hand in the game. 
It won't take me ten minutes to pack and go, my plan's 
Not to risk losing temper and have half-decent 
Thoughts of you while I'm gone, and you of me, Tamar." 
She lay too quietly and the shining eyes 
Seemed not to hide amusement, he waited for her 
To acknowledge not in direct words perhaps 
His generosity, but she silent, "Well, shall I leave the lamp?" 
He said, not all so kindly, and Tamar, "I've no one else 
If you are going. But if you'd stay I wouldn't 
Touch you again, ever. Agh, you can't wait 
To get to France to crawl into strange beds, 
But Monterey to-night. You what a beast. 



You like them dirty." He said, "You're a fool, Tamar. 

Well, so I'll leave the lamp. Good-by, Tamar." 

"You said you'd help me down the hall." "Yes, even that. 

What must I do, carry you?" "Is the bed together? 

See whether there are sheets and covers on it." 

He went, and returned icy-pale. "It hasn't been changed 

Since I smelled fire and ran into the room 

Six or eight days ago. The cupboard door-frame 

Is all charcoal. By God, Tamar, 

If I believed he'd done itwho is he, Andrews? 

You and your lies have made a horror in the house. 

What, shall I go, shall I go?" "Me? who made me 

Believe that I could keep you or let you go. 

Didn't you say?" "You still believe it," he answered, 

Doubling his fists to hold in anger, the passionate need 

Of striking her like a torrent in his throat, 

"Believe it, fool." "Poor brother. You will never see France. 

Never wear uniform nor learn how to fasten 

A bayonet to a gun-barrel." "Come. Stop talking. 

Get up, come to your room." "Carry me," she answered. 

"Though I am not really much too tired to walk. 

You used to like me." "Well, to get done and be gone," 

He said, bending above her, she enlaced his neck 

Softly and strongly and raised her knees to let 

His arms slip under them, he like a man stung by a serpent 

Felt weakness and then rage, panted to lift her 

And staggered in the doorway and in the dark hallway 

Grew dizzy, and difficultly went on and groaning 

Dropped her on the bed in her own room, she did not move 

To cover herself, then he drawing his palm 

Across his forehead found it streaming wet 

And said, "You whore, you whore, you whore. Well, you shall 

have it, 

You've earned it," and he twisted himself to the little table 
And took the whip, the oiled black supple quirt, 
Loaded at the handle, that seemed a living snake in the hand, 
And felt the exasperate force of his whole baffled 
And blindfold life flow sideways into the shoulder 



Swinging it, and half repenting while it dropped 

Sickened to see the beautiful bare white 

Blemishless body writhe under it before it fell, 

The loins pressed into the bed, the breast and head 

Twisting erect, and at the noise of the stroke 

He made a hoarse cry in his throat but she 

Took it silently, and lay still afterward, 

Her head so stricken backward that the neck 

Seemed strained to breaking, the coppery pad of her hair 

Crushed on the shoulder-blades, while that red snake-trail 

Swelled visibly from the waist and flank down the left thigh. 

"O God, God, God," he groaned; and she, her whole body 

Twitching on the white bed whispered between her teeth 

"It was in the bargain," and from her bitten lip 

A trickle of blood ran down to the pillow. 

That one light in the room, 
The lamp on the sill, did not turn redder for blood nor with the 

But shone serene and innocent up the northward night, writing 

a long pale-golden track 
In the river's arm of sea, and beyond the river's mouth where 

the old lion's teeth of blunted granite 
Crop out of the headland young Will Andrews kissed it with 

his eyes, rode south and crossed the river's 
Late-summer sand-lock. Figures of fire moved in the hills on 

the left, the pasture-fires and brush-fires 
Men kindle before rain, on a southerly wind the smell of the 

smoke reached him, the sea on his right 
Breathed; when he skirted the darkness of the gum-tree grove 

at San Jose creek-mouth he remembered 
Verdugo killed there; Sylvia Vierra and her man had lived in 

the little white-washed farm-hut 
Under the surf-reverberant bluc-truins, two years ago they had 

had much wine in the house, their friend 
Verdugo came avisiting, he being drunk on the raw plenty of 

wine they thought abused 



Nine-year-old Mary, Sylvia's daughter, they struck him from 

behind and when he was down unmanned him 
With the kitchen knife, then plotted drunkenly for he seemed 

to be deadwhere to dispose the body. 
That evening Tamar Cauldwell riding her white pony along 

the coast-road saw a great bonfire 
Periling the gum-tree grove, and riding under the smoke met evil 

odors, turning in there 
Saw by the firelight a man's feet hang out of the fire; then Tamar 

never having suffered 

Fear in her life, knocked at the hut's door and unanswered en- 
tered, and found the Vierras asleep 
Steaming away their wine, but little Mary weeping. She had 

taken the child and ridden homeward. 
Young Andrews thinking of that idyll of the country gulped at 

the smoke from the hills and tethered 
His horse in the hiding of a clump of pines, and climbed the 


Turning a cypress thicket 
He saw a figure sway in the starlight, and stood still, breathless. 

A woman: Tamar? Not Tamar: 
No one he knew: it faced the east gables of the house and seemed 

twisting its hands and suddenly 
Flung up both arms to its face and passed out of the patch of 

starlight. The boy, troubled and cautious, 
Turned the other way and circling to the south face of the 

house peered from behind the buttressed 
Base of a seventy-year-old trunk that yellow light on the other 

side clothed, and he saw 
A lamp on the table and three people sitting by it; the old man, 

stiff- jointed as a corpse, 
Grotesquely erect, and old Aunt Stella her lips continually in 

motion, and old Jinny 
Cross-legg'd having drawn up her ankles into her chair, nodding 

asleep. At length Aunt Stella 
Ceased talking, none of the three stirred. Young Andrews backed 

into the wood and warily finishing 



His circuit stood in the darkness under Tamar's window. The 

strong young tree to help him to it 
Still wore on its boughs her lamplight, then he climbed and set 

his hands on the sill, his feet on the ledge 
Under it, and Tamar came to the window and took up the lamp 

to let him enter. Her face 
White in the yellow lamp's glow, with sharp shadows under the 

eyes and a high look of joy 
He had never seen there frightened him, and she said, "I have 

been sick, you know." "I heard," he answered, 
"O Tamar, I have been lonely. We must let them know, we 

can't go on, my place is with you 
When you most need me." "We will tell them to-night," she 

said, and kissed his mouth and called, "Lee, Lee, 
Come. He has come." "What? Now," he said. "I have told Lee. 

I was sick, he was sorry for me, he is going 
To camp to-morrow, he wants to see you and say good-by." 

Lee entered while she spoke and quietly 
Held out his hand and Andrews took it. "Talk to each other," 

Tamar said, "I am very tired 
And must lie down." Lee muttered "She's been awfully sick, it 

scared us, you were lucky, Bill Andrews, 
Not to be here." "I didn't think so," he answered, "what was it, 

Lee?" "Well, it's all over," Lee said, 
Shifting his feet, "I'm off to-morrow. I'm glad we're friends to 

say good-by. Be good to her, won't you." 
And the other, "O God knows I will. All I can do. But of course 

. . . Lee ... if they need me 
She knows I won't beg off because I'm . . . married . . . 

maybe I'll see you over there." "O," said Tamar 
Laughing, "you too?" and she sat up on the bed saying, "Lee: 

go and call father if he's able. 
We ought to tell him, he ought to meet myhusband." "I'll see 

if he can," Lee answered, "he was unwell 
To-day, and if he's in bed . . ." He left the room, then Tamar: 

"Look. Bring the lamp. What Lee did to me." 
She opened the blue robe and bared her flank and thigh showing 

the long whip-mark. "I have a story. 



You must sec this to believe it." He turned giddy, the sweet 

Dazzling him, and the lamp shook in his hand, for the sharp spasm 

of physical pain one feels 
At sight of a wound shot up his entrails. That long welt of red on 

the tender flesh, the blood-flecks 
And tortured broken little channels of blood crossing it. "Tamar, 

Tamar!" "Put down the lamp, 
And when they come I'll tell you the story." "What shall I do?" 

"Why, nothing, nothing. Poor boy," she said, 
Pityingly, "I think you are too glad of your life to have come 
Into this house, you are not hard enough, you are like my mother, 

only stone or fire 
Should marry into this house." Then he bewildered looking at 

the blackened door-frame, "Why, yes," 
Laughed Tamar, "it is here, it has been here, the bridegroom's 

here already. O Will I have suffered . . . 
Things I daren't tell." "What do you mean, Tamar?" "Nothing, 

I mustn't tell you, you are too high-tempered, 
You would do something. Dear, there are things so wicked that 

nothing you can do can make them better, 
So horrible now they are done that even to touch or try to mend 

or punish them is only to widen 
Horror: like poking at a corpse in a pool. And father's old and 

helpless." "Your father, Tamar?" 
"And not to blame. I think he hardly even knew what Lee" 

"Lee?" "This much I'll tell you, 
You have to know it ... our love, your love and mine, had . . . 

fruit, would have been fruitful, we were going to have 
A child, and I was happy and frightened, and it is dead. O God, 

O God, O God, I wish 
I too had been born too soon and died with the eyes unopened, 

not a cry, darkness, darkness, 
And to be hidden away. They did it to me; with other abuse, 

worse violence." Meanwhile Lee Cauldwell 
Finding his father with the two old women in the room down- 
stairs, "Father," he said, 



"Tamar was asking for you . . ." and Helen's voice through old 

Aunt Stella answered, "She has enough, 
Tell her she has enough." "Aunt Stella," he said, "how long will 

you keep it up? Our trouble's clearing, 
Let your ghosts be." "She has you and the other," she answered, 

"let me have this one. Are we buzzards to quarrel 
Over you dead, we ghosts?" Then Lee turning his shoulder at her, 

"You must come up, father. 
Do you remember the Andrews place that's up the valley? Young 

Andrews is upstairs with Tamar, 
He wants to marry her. You know I have to go away to-morrow, 

remember? and I'll go happier 
To leave her . . . taken care of. So you'll see him, father?" 

"Who is it?" asked the old man. "The bridegroom," 
Said Helen's voice, "a bridegroom for your Tamar, and the priest 

will be fire and blood the witness, 
And they will live together in a house where the mice are moles." 

"Why do you plague me," he answered 
Plaintively, and Lee: "Come, father," and he lifting his face, 

"I have prayed to the hills to come and cover me, 
We are on the drop-off cliff of the world and dare not meet Him, 

I with two days to live, even I 
Shall watch the ocean boiling and the sea curl up like paper in a 

fire and the dry bed 
Crack to the bottom: I have good news for her, I will see her." 

"And I to tell her she may take 
Two but not three," said Helen. "Stay here, stay here, be quiet," 

Lee answered angrily, "can I take up 
The whole menagerie, raving?" He turned in the door and heard 

his father move behind him and said, 
"If you come up, be quiet," and at the door upstairs, "Father is 

tired and sick, he'll only 
Speak to you, Andrews, and must go to bed; he's worried about 

my going away to-morrow. 
This is Bill Andrews, father." And Tamar coming to the door, 

"Let him come in, it's dark here, 
No, bring him in. Father come in. What, shall the men that made 

your war suck up their millions, 



Not I my three?" Then Andrews: "If Tamar is well enough to 

go to-night I will take her to-night. 
You will be well when you are out of this house." "You hate it 

still," said Tamar. "He hates the house," 
She said to Lee, leading his eyes with the significance in hers to 

the blackened door-frame, 
"Well, I will go with you to-morrow." And Lee, "Listen, Will 

Andrews, I heard from somebody 
You know who set the fire here." "No, not that," he answered, 

"but I know other worse things 
That have been done here." "Fire, fire," moaned the old man, 

"the fire of the Lord coming in judgment. Tamar, 
It is well with us, be happy, He won't torture the wicked, He will 

rub them out and suddenly 

With instant fire. We shall be nothing." "Come, Tamar," An- 
drews cried, "to-night. I daren't leave you." 
"For fear I ask her," said Lee. "You did it, then. You set the fire." 

"No, that's too idiot 
A lie to answer," he said, "what do I know about your fires? 

I know something 

Worse than arson. And saw the horrible new scar of a whip 
Not to be paid this way!" He felt the jerk of his arm striking 
And his fist hitting the sharp edge of the jawbone, but yet 
When Lee staggered and closed in with a groan, 
Clutching him, fumbling for his throat, Will thought "What 

a fool 

To make a nasty show of us before Tamar 
And the others, why does he want to fight?" and indignantly 
Pushed him off and struck twice, both fists, Lee dropped 
And scrambled on hands and knees by the little table. 
Then the old man cried, "We shall be nothing, nothing. 
O but that's frightful." 
And Will turning to Tamar saw such hatred 
Wrinkle her face he felt a horrible surge 
Of nausea in him, then with bare teeth she smiled at him 
And he believed the hate was for her brother 
And said, "Ah Tamar, come." Meanwhile the Helen 
That spoke out of the lungs and ran in the nerves 



Of old Aunt Stella caught the old man David Cauldwell 

By the loose flapping sleeve and the lean arm, 

Saying in a clotted amorous voice, "Come, David, 

My brother, my lover, O honey come, she has no eyes for you, 

She feasts on young men. But you to me, to me, 

Are as beautiful as when we dared 

Desperate pleasure, naked, ages ago, 

In the room and by the sea." "Father," said Tamar, 

"It is only an hour to the end, whom do you want 

To-night? Stay here by me." "I was hunting for something," said 

Lee Cauldwell, 

"Here it is, here it is," and had the sheath-knife bared 
And struck up from the floor, rising, the blade 
Ripped cloth and skin along his enemy's belly 
And the leather belt catching it deflected the point 
Into the bowels, Andrews coughed and fell backward 
And Lee falling across him stabbed at his throat 
But struck too high and opened the right cheek, 
The knife scraping on bone and teeth, then Tamar 
In a sea-gull voice, "I dreamed it in his face, 
I dreamed a T cut in his face " "You and your dreams 
Have done for us," Lee groaned answer. "Akh, all blood, blood. 
What did you say to make him hit me?" 

Though it is not thought 
That the dead intervene between the minds 
And deeds of the living, that they are witnesses, 
If anything of their spirits with any memory 
Survive and not in prison, would seem as likely 
As that an exile should look longingly home: 
And the mist-face of that mother at the window 
Wavering was but a witness, could but watch, 
Neither prevent nor cause: no doubt there are many 
Such watchers in the world: the same whom Andrews, 
Stepping like a thief among the cypress clumps an hour before 
Saw twist her hands and suddenly fling up both vaporous arms 

and sway out of the starlight, 
She now was watching at the downstairs window 



Old Jinny alone in the room, and saw, as the dead see, the 


More clearly than the cloth and skin; the child mind 
In that old flesh gathered home on itself 
In coils, laboring to warm a memory, 
And worked on by an effluence, petulantly pushing away 
The easier memories of its open time 

Forty years back, power flowing from someone in that house 
Belting it in, pressing it to its labor, 
Making it shape in itself the memory of to-day's 
Vision, the watcher saw it, how could she know it 
Or know from whence? a girl naked, no, wrapped in fire, 
Filmed in white sheets of fire. "Why, I'm like God," 
Old Jinny had said, "I see through walls," a girl 
Naked though clothed in fire, and under the arms 
Naked, no hair, "Ah to be like her, to be like her, probably 
Cloth, hair, burned off"; displaying herself before a wild old man 
Who appeared pan of the joy: "Ah, to be like her, 
Fire is so sweet, they never let me play with it, 
No one loves Jinny, wouldn't fire be a father 
And hold her in his arms? Fire is so sweet," 
She hovered the hot lamp, "sweet fire, sweet light," 
She held a rag of paper above it, "O dear, dear fire, 
Come and kiss Jinny, no one's looking, 
Jinny's alone. Dear star, dear light, O lovely fire 
Won't you come out, why is it turning black, 
Ah come, Ah come, hug Jinny." The hungry beautiful bird 
Hopped from its bird-cage to her. "I've got my star 
Ah love, Ah love, and here's more paper 
And a little of Jinny's dress, love, lovely light, 
Jinny so loves you, Jinny's baby, Jinny's baby, 
O," she screamed, "Oo, Oo, Oo," and ran to the window, folded 
In a terrible wreath, and at her side the curtains 
Danced into flame, and over her head; the gasp 
That followed on a cry drew down a sword 
Of flame to her lungs, pain ceased, and thinking "Father" 
She dropped herself into the arms of the fire, 
Huddling under the sill, and her spirit unprisoned 



Filled all the room and felt a nuptial joy 

In mixing with the bright and eager flame. 

While from that blackened morsel on the floor 

Fire spread to the wall and gnawed it through, and the window- 

Crackling and tinkling a rush of south wind fed 

The eagerness in the house. They heard upstairs 

That brutal arch of crying, the quick crescendo, 

The long drop and the following moan, Will Andrews 

Struggled to rise and like a gopher-snake that a child 

Has mashed the head of with a stone, he waggled 

The blood-clot of his head over the floor 

Gulping "You devils, you devils." Lee would have run down 

But Tamar clung to him, the old man on his knees 

Muttered to God, and old Aunt Stella 

In no voice but her own screamed, screamed. Then fire 

Was heard roaring, the door leaked threads of smoke, 

Lee caught up Tamar in his arms and turned 

To the window, the cypress-ladder, but his first step, 

Blind, with the burden in his arms, the smoke in his eyes, 

Trampled his murdered man on the floor who turning 

Caught the other ankle and Lee went down and Tamar 

So lovingly wound him that he could not rise 

Till the house was full of its bright death; then Tamar: 

"I will not let you take me. Go if you want." 

He answered, "You devil, shall I go?" "You wouldn't stay! 

Think of your black-eyed French girls." "We are on the edge 
of it," he answered, 

"Tamar, be decent for a minute." "I have my three lovers 

Here in one room, none of them will go out, 

How can I help being happy? This old man 

Has prayed the end of the world onto us all, 

And which of you leaves me?" Then the old man: "O what 

What mountain, what mountain?" And Lee, "Father. The 

We'll follow you." But he kneeling would not rise, 

While the house moved and the floor sagged to the south 



And old Aunt Stella through the opening door 

Ran into the red and black, and did not scream 

Any more; then Tamar, "Did you think you would go 

Laughing through France?" And the old man, "Fierce, fierce 


Have pity, Christ have pity, Christ have pity, Christ have pity, 
Christ have pity, 
Christ have pity . . ." 

And Tamar with her back to the window embraced 
Her brother, who struggled toward it, but the floor 
Turned like a wheel. 

Grass grows where the flame flowered; 
A hollowed lawn strewn with a few black stones 
And the brick of broken chimneys; all about there 
The old trees, some of them scarred with fire, endure the sea 


The storm-dances of gulls, the barking game of seals, 

Over and under the ocean . . . 

Divinely superfluous beauty 

Rules the games, presides over destinies, makes trees grow 

And hills tower, waves fall. 

The incredible beauty of joy 

Stars with fire the joining of lips, O let our loves too 

Be joined, there is not a maiden 

Burns and thirsts for love 

More than my blood for you, by the shore of seals while the 


Weave like a web in the air 
Divinely superfluous beauty. 


Why listen, even the water is sobbing for something. 

The west wind is dead, the waves 

Forget to hate the cliff, in the upland canyons 

Whole hillsides burst aglow 

With golden broom. Dear how it rained last month, 

And every pool was rimmed 

With sulphury pollen dust of the wakening pines. 

Now tall and slender suddenly 

The stalks of purple iris blaze by the brooks, 

The penciled ones on the hill; 

This deerweed shivers with gold, the white globe-tulips 

Blow out their silky bubbles, 

But in the next glen bronze-bells nod, the does 

Scalded by some hot longing 

Can hardly set their pointed hoofs to expect 

Love but they crush a flower; 

Shells pair on the rock, birds mate, the moths fly double. 

O it is time for us now 

Mouth kindling mouth to entangle our maiden bodies 

To make that burning flower. 



(Here a dancer enters and dances.) 
Who is she that is fragrant and desirable, 
Clothed but enough to wake wantonness, 
And proud of her polished lithe body and her narrowing of 

kohl-darkened eyelids with arrows between them? 
Ah, ah, ah! Goddess of the world, 
Young serpent in the veins of the rock, 
In the mountain of jewels a young serpent, in the veins of a 

man a sweet viper all emerald: ah Goddess 
Are we proof to the hilt, are you pleased with us 
When the splendor of your undulant insolence 
Pricks the dark entrails of death, his foregathered grow hot for 

you, the skeleton stands up to be amorous? 
Ah, ah, ah! Goddess of the flesh 
Will you think it a gift lacking grace 
That the gates of the grave have been battered before you, the 

iron doors to us dead in the deepest abysm? 
For who has gone down to the dead or has touched them? 
Did Jesus of Nazareth when he lay in deep hell 
For three days and since lived as they say and has failed us? 
No man nor no woman has gone down to us dead 
Living until now, but the proof is here now, ah beautiful torture 

us again and again. 

We are fleshless, we tremble to your flesh, 
Dear Goddess to taste of the dew 
On your arms when you dance or to lip at the glitter of your 

burnished thighs or the breast of your barrenness. 
In the book of your triumphs with no term 
Inscribe a more wonderful deed, 
That you quickened the dead, that you lifted the flesh of the 

fleshless, ah Goddess, ah! dancing, us dead men. 

(The dancer goes out.) 



(A second dancer enters and dances.) 
Was it lovely to lie among violets ablossom in the valleys of 

love on the breast of the south? 
It was lovely but lovelier now 
To behold the calm head of the dancer we dreaded, his curls are 

as tendrils of the vineyard, O Death 
Sweet and more sweet is your dancing. 
Like the swoon of fulfilment of love in some lonelier vale among 

flowers is the languor that flushes us, 
O why did we fear him, for Death 
Is a beautiful youth and his eyes are sleepy, the lids droop heavily 

with wine when he wakens, 
And his breast is more smooth than a dove's. 
Fair Garda, gay water with olives engarlanded, lake of blue 

laughter in a bay of the Alps 
It is better for our spirits to be here 
In the desolate hollows of darkness beholding the beauty of our 

dancer than at rest on your hills 
Of anemones and jonquils immingled. 
And gay from the glacier womb, boy-throated for gladness to 

shout where the snow-crags throng 
Ran foaming the rivulet Rhone, 
When the mountains were sprung for his passage, the ridges of 

granite were splintered; and lovely the lake was 
Under the vineyards of Vaud, 
And at evening empurpling the peaks of the Chablais were 

painted on the sleep and deep shadow of its waters 
When the sundown was flame on la Dole. 
But the best of the course is the last broad slumber, O river of 

France to forget and go down 
Slow-gliding and sultrily stagnant 
Past Aries to the Gulf of the Lion and that azure and beautiful 

grave in the waves of the south 
That arc wannest and best . . . and an end . . . 

(The dancer has gone out*) 




(A third dancer enters and dances.) 
Use us again, you in the world only of goddesses worshipful 

now or adored, 
Helmeted victory! 
How did we bow, even in dream, visions betraying us, unto some 

other and base 

Power when your splendor there 
Struck on the gates? Use us again, awfully beautiful. Blood will 

reblossom from death 
Burning to minister 
All its revived fire at your feet, only to merit an eye-glance, or 

flash of your hand's 
Gauntleted majesty. 
Pounding of guns clear you a path, trample the ports of decision 

and triumph on the slain. 
Men when they fall in it 
Gayly they die, scattering for flowers rosy and white at your 

feet the red blood and pale brains 
Carpeting battlefields. 
Towering in steel, terribly armed, which of the daughters of 

heaven is so hotly desired? 
None has embraced you yet, 
All of us burn, beautifully mad, frantic with lust of your beauty 

and with thirst of your mouth's 
Terrible maidenhood; 
Holy and white, under the steel, hide the sweet limbs of our 

longing desire in a deep 
Sacred virginity. 
Emperors and lords gave her in vain cities of gold and whole 

nations of blood, for she took 
Gifts, but rejected them. 
Neither a king's bribe nor a bold armorer's hammer prevails to 

unrivet the steel 
Belt of her maidenhood, 


Yet shall our prayer surely be heard. Goddess of glory revoke our 

exemption of death, 
Twice let us die for you. 
Use us again, though but an hour: surely the prayer is as humble 

as the gift would be great, 
Helmeted Victory. 

(The dancer goes out.) 


Christ was your lord and captain all your life, 

He fails the world but you he did not fail, 

He led you through all forms of grief and strife 

Intact, a man full-armed, he let prevail 

Nor outward malice nor the worse-f anged snake 

That coils in one's own brain against your calm, 

That great rich jewel well guarded for his sake 

With coronal age and death like quieting balm. 

I Father having followed other guides 

And oftener to my hurt no leader at all, 

Through years nailed up like dripping panther hides 

For trophies on a savage temple wall 

Hardly anticipate that reverend stage 

Of life, the snow-wreathed honor of extreme age. 


(NOVEMBER, 1918) 

Peace now for every fury has had her day, 
Their natural make is moribund, they cease, 
They carry the inward seeds of quick decay, 
Build breakwaters for storm but build on peace. 
The mountains' peace answers the peace of the stars, 
Our petulances are cracked against their term. 
God built our peace and plastered it with wars, 
Those frescoes fade, flake off, peace remains firm. 
In the beginning before light began 
We lay or fluttered blind in burdened wombs, 
And like that first so is the last of man, 
When under death for husband the amorous tombs 
Are covered and conceived; nine months go by 
No midwife called, nine years no baby's cry. 


Peace now, though purgatory fires were hot 
They always had a heart something like ice 
That coldly peered and wondered, suffering not 
Nor pleased in any park, nor paradise 
Of slightly swelling breasts and beautiful arms 
And throat engorged with very carnal blood. 
It coldly peered and wondered, "Strong God your charms 
Are glorious, I remember solitude. 
Before youth towered we knew a time of truth 
To have eyes was nearly rapture." Peace now, for war 
Will find the cave that childhood found and youth. 
Ten million lives are stolen and not one star 
Dulled; wars die out, life will die out, death cease, 
Beauty lives always and the beauty of peace. 




Peace to the world in time or in a year, 
In the inner world I have touched the instant peace. 
Man's soul's a flawless crystal coldly clear, 
A cold white mansion that he yields in lease 
To tenant dreams and tyrants from the brain 
And riotous burnings of the lovelier flesh. 
We pour strange wines and purples all in vain. 
The crystal remains pure, the mansion fresh. 
All the Asian bacchanals and those from Thrace 
Lived there and left no wine-mark on the walls. 
What were they doing in that more sacred place 
All the Asian and the Thracian bacchanals? 
Peace to the world to-morrow or in a year, 
Peace in that mansion white, that crystal clear. 


Peace now poor earth. They fought for freedom's sake, 
She was starving in a corner while they fought. 
They knew not whom they stabbed by Onega Lake, 
Whom lashed from Archangel, whom loved, whom sought. 
How can she die, she is the blood unborn, 
The energy in earth's arteries beating red, 
The world will flame with her in some great morn, 
The whole great world flame with her, and we be dead. 
Here in the west it grows by dim degrees, 
In the east flashed and will flame terror and light. 
Peace now poor earth, peace to that holier peace 
Deep in the soul held secret from all sight. 
That crystal, the pure home, the holier peace, 
Fires flaw not, scars the crudest cannot crease. 


South of the Big Sur River up the hill 
Three graves are marked thick weeds and grasses heap, 
Under the forest there I have stood still 



Hours, thinking it the sweetest place to sleep , . . 
Strewing all-sufficient death with compliments 
Sincere and unrequired, coveting peace . . . 
Boards at the head not stones, the text's rude paints 
Mossed, rain-rubbed . . . wasting hours of scanty lease 
To admire their peace made perfect. From that height 
But for the trees the whole valley might be seen, 
But for the heavy dirt, the eye-pits no light 
Enters, the heavy dirt, the grass growing green 
Over the dirt, the molelike secretness, 
The immense withdrawal, the dirt, the quiet, the peace. 


Women cried that morning, bells rocked with mirth, 

We all were glad a long while afterward, 

But still in dreary places of the earth 

A hundred hardly fed shall labor hard 

To clothe one belly and stuff it with soft meat, 

Blood paid for peace but still those poor shall buy it, 

This sweat of slaves is no good wine but yet 

Sometimes it climbs to the brain. Be happy and quiet, 

Be happy and live, be quiet or God might wake. 

He sleeps in the mountain that is heart of man's heart, 

He also in promontory fists, and make 

Of stubborn-muscled limbs, he will not start 

For a little thing ... his great hands grope, unclose, 

Feel out for the main pillars . . . pull down the house . 


After all, after all we endured, who has grown wise? 
We take our mortal momentary hour 
With too much gesture, the derisive skies 
Twinkle against our wrongs, our rights, our power. 
Look up the night, starlight's a steadying draught 
For nerves at angry tension. They have all meant well, 
Our enemies and the knaves at whom we've laughed, 
The liars, the clowns in office, the kings in hell, 


fhey have all meant well in the main . . . some of them tried 
The mountain road of tolerance . . . They have made war, 
Conspired, oppressed, robbed, murdered, lied and lied, 
Meant well, played the loud fool . . . and star by star 
Winter Orion pursues the Pleiades 
In pale and huge parade, silence and peace. 


That ice within the soul, the admonisher 
Of madness when we're wildest, the unwinking eye 
That measures all things with indifferent stare, 
Choosing far stars to check near objects by, 
That quiet lake inside and underneath, 
Strong, undisturbed by any angel of strife, 
Being so tranquil seems the presence of death, 
Being so central seems the essence of life. 
Is it perhaps that death and life make truce 
In neutral zone while their old feud beyond 
Fires the towered cities? Surely for a strange use 
He sphered that eye of flawless diamond. 
It does not serve him but with line and rod 
Measures him, how indeed should God serve God? 


It does not worship him, it will not serve. 
And death and life within that Eye combine, 
Within that only untorturable nerve 
Of those that make a man, within that shrine 
Which there is nothing ever can profane, 
Where life and death are sister and brother and lovers, 
The golden voice of Christ were heard in vain, 
The holy spirit of God visibly hovers. 
Small-breasted girls, lithe women heavy-haired, 
Loves that once grew into our nerves and veins, 
Yours Freedom was desire that deeper dared 
To the citadel where mastery remains, 
Yours to the spirit . . . discount the penny that is 
Ungivable, this Eye, this God, this Peace. 


All in a simple innocence I strove 

To give myself away to any power, 

Wasting on women's bodies wealth of love, 

Worshipping every sunrise mountain tower; 

Some failure mocked me still denying perfection, 

Parts of me might be spended not the whole, 

I sought of wine surrender and self-correction, 

I failed, I could not give away my soul. 

Again seeking to give myself I sought 

Outward in vain through all things, out through God, 

And tried all heights, all gulfs, all dreams, all thought. 

I found this wisdom on the wonderful road, 

The essential Me cannot be given away, 

The single Eye, God cased in blood-shot clay. 


Peace to the world in time or in a year, 
But always all our lives this peace was ours. 
Peace is not hard to have, it lies more near 
Than breathing to the breast. When brigand powers 
Of anger or pain or the sick dream of sin 
Break our soul's house outside the ruins we weep. 
We look through the breached wall, why there within 
All the red while our peace was lying asleep. 
Smiling in dreams while the broad knives drank blood, 
The robbers triumphed, the roof burned overhead, 
The eternal living and untroubled God 
Lying asleep upon a lily bed. 

Men screamed, the bugles screamed, walls broke in the air, 
We never knew till then that He was there. 


The old voice of the ocean, the bird-chatter of little rivers, 

(Winter has given them gold for silver 

To stain their water and bladed green for brown to line their 


From different throats intone one language. 
So I believe if we were strong enough to listen without 
Divisions of desire and terror 
To the storm of the sick nations, the rage of the hunger-smitten 


Those voices also would be found 

Clean as a child's; or like some girl's breathing who dances alone 
By the ocean-shore, dreaming of lovers. 



Point Joe has teeth and has torn ships; it has fierce and solitary 

Walk there all day you shall see nothing that will not make part 

of a poem. 

I saw the spars and planks of shipwreck on the rocks, and beyond 

the desolate 
Sea-meadows rose the warped wind-bitten van of the pines, a 

fog-bank vaulted 

Forest and all, the flat sea-meadows at that time of year were 

Golden with the low flower called footsteps of the spring, mil- 
lions of flowerets, 

Whose light suffused upward into the fog flooded its vault, we 

Through a weird country where the light beat up from earth- 
ward, and was golden. 

One other moved there, an old Chinaman gathering seaweed 

from the sea-rocks, 
He brought it in his basket and spread it flat to dry on the edge of 

the meadow. 

Permanent things are what is needful in a poem, things tem- 

Of great dimension, things continually renewed or always 

Grass that is made each year equals the mountains in her past 

and future; 
Fashionable and momentary things we need not see nor speak of. 



Man gleaning food between the solemn presences of land and 

On shores where better men have shipwrecked, under fog and 

among flowers, 

Equals the mountains in his past and future; that glow from the 

earth was only 
A trick of nature's, one must forgive nature a thousand graceful 




The clapping blackness of the wings of pointed cormorants, 

the great indolent planes 

Of autumn pelicans nine or a dozen strung shorelong, 
But chiefly the gulls, the cloud-caligraphers of windy spirals 

before a storm, 

Cruise north and south over the sea-rocks and over 
That bluish enormous opal; very lately these alone, these and the 


And westering lights of heaven, crossed it; but then 
A hull with standing canvas crept about Point Lobos . . . now 

all day long the steamers 

Smudge the opal's rim; often a seaplane troubles 
The sea-wind with its throbbing heart. These will increase, the 

others diminish; and later 
These will diminish; our Pacific has pastured 
The Mediterranean torch and passed it west across the fountains 

of the morning; 

And the following desolation that feeds on Crete 
Feed here; the clapping blackness of the wings of pointed cor- 
morants, the great sails 
Of autumn pelicans, the gray sea-going gulls, 
Alone will streak the enormous opal, the earth have peace like the 

broad water, our blood's 
Unrest have doubled to Asia and be peopling 
Europe again, or dropping colonies at the morning star: what 

moody traveler 

Wanders back here, watches the sea-fowl circle 
The old sea-granite and cemented granite with one regard, and 

greets my ghost, 
One temper with the granite, bulking about here? 


The days shorten, the south blows wide for showers now, 

The south wind shouts to the rivers, 

The rivers open their mouths and the salt salmon 

Race up into the freshet. 

In Christmas month against the smoulder and menace 

Of a long angry sundown, 

Red ash of the dark solstice, you see the anglers, 

Pitiful, cruel, primeval, 

Like the priests of the people that built Stonehengc, 

Dark silent forms, performing 

Remote solemnities in the red shallows 

Of the river's mouth at the year's turn, 

Drawing landward their live bullion, the bloody mouths 

And scales full of the sunset 

Twitch on the rocks, no more to wander at will 

The wild Pacific pasture nor wanton and spawning 

Race up into fresh water. 



lam heaping the bones of the old mother 

To build us a hold against the host of the air; 

Granite the blood-heat of her youth 

Held molten in hot darkness against the heart 

Hardened to temper under the feet 

Of the ocean cavalry that are maned with snow 

And march from the remotest west. 

This is the primitive rock, here in the wet 

Quarry under the shadow of waves 

Whose hollows mouthed the dawn; little house each stone 

Baptized from that abysmal font 

The sea and the secret earth gave bonds to affirm you. 


Old garden of grayish and ochre lichen, 

How long a rime since the brown people who have vanished from 


Built fires beside you and nestled by you 

Out of the ranging sea-wind? A hundred years, two hundred, 
You have been dissevered from humanity 

And only known the stubble squirrels and the headland rabbits, 
Or the long-fetlocked plowhorses 
Breaking the hilltop in December, sea-gulls following, 
Screaming in the black furrow; no one 
Touched you with love, the gray hawk and the red hawk touched 


Where now my hand lies. So I have brought you 
Wine and white milk and honey for the hundred years of famine 
And the hundred cold ages of sea-wind. 

I did not dream the taste of wine could bind with granite, 

Nor honey and milk please you; but sweetly 

They mingle down the storm-worn cracks among the mosses, 

Interpenetrating the silent 

Wing-prints of ancient weathers long at peace, and the older 

Scars of primal fire, and the stone 

Endurance that is waiting millions of years to carry 

A corner of the house, this also destined. 

Lend me the stone strength of the past and I will lend you 

The wings of the future, for I have them. 

How dear you will be to me when I too grow old, old comrade. 


Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated 

Challengers of oblivion 

Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down, 

The square-limbed Roman letters 

Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well 

Builds his monument mockingly; 

For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun 

Die blind and blacken to the heart: 

Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts 

The honey of peace in old poems. 


Peace is the heir of dead desire, 

Whether abundance killed the cormorant 

In a happy hour, or sleep or death 

Drowned him deep in dreamy waters, 

Peace is the ashes of that fire, 

The heir of that king, the inn of that journey. 

This last and best and goal: we dead 

Hold it so tight you are envious of us 

And fear under sunk lids contempt. 

Death-day greetings are the sweetest. 

Let trumpets roar when a man dies 

And rockets fly up, he has found his fortune. 

Yet hungering long and pitiably 
That way, you shall not reach a finger 
To pluck it unripe and before dark 
Creep to cover: life broke ten whipstocks 
Over my back, broke faith, stole hope, 
Before I denounced the covenant of courage. 



Wise men in their bad hours have envied 

The little people making merry like grasshoppers 

In spots of sunlight, hardly thinking 

Backward but never forward, and if they somehow 

Take hold upon the future they do it 

Half asleep, with the tools of generation 

Foolishly reduplicating 

Folly in thirty-year periods; they eat and laugh too, 

Groan against labors, wars and partings, 

Dance, talk, dress and undress; wise men have pretended 

The summer insects enviable; 

One must indulge the wise in moments of mockery. 

Strength and desire possess the future, 

The breed of the grasshopper shrills, "What does the future 

Matter, we shall be dead?" Ah, grasshoppers, 

Death's a fierce meadowlark: but to die having made 

Something more equal to the centuries 

Than muscle and bone, is mostly to shed weakness. 

The mountains are dead stone, the people 

Admire or hate their stature, their insolent quietness, 

The mountains are not softened nor troubled 

And a few dead men's thoughts have the same temper. 



At the equinox when the earth was veiled in a late rain, wreathed 

with wet poppies, waiting spring, 
The ocean swelled for a far storm and beat its boundary, the 

ground-swell shook the beds of granite. 

I gazing at the boundaries of granite and spray, the established 

sea-marks, felt behind me 
Mountain and plain, the immense breadth of the continent, before 

me the mass and doubled stretch of water. 

I said: You yoke the Aleutian seal-rocks with the lava and coral 

sowings that flower the south, 
Over your flood the life that sought the sunrise faces ours that has 

followed the evening star. 

The long migrations meet across you and it is nothing to you, you 

have forgotten us, mother. 
You were much younger when we crawled out of the womb and 

lay in the sun's eye on the tideline. 

It was long and long ago; we have grown proud since then and 

you have grown bitter; life retains 
Your mobile soft unquiet strength; and envies hardness, the 

insolent quietness of stone. 

The tides are in our veins, we still mirror the stars, life is your 

child, but there is in me 
Older and harder than life and more impartial, the eye that 

watched before there was an ocean. 

That watched you fill your beds out of the condensation of thin 

vapor and watched you change them, 
That saw you soft and violent wear your boundaries down, eat 

rock, shift places with the continents. 



Mother, though my song's measure is like your surf-beat's ancient 

rhythm I never learned it of you. 
Before there was any water there were tides of fire, both our 

tones flow from the older fountain. 



You'd never have thought the Queen was Helen's sister Troy's 

burning-flower from Sparta, the beautiful sea-flower 
Cut in clear stone, crowned with the fragrant golden mane, she 

the ageless, the uncontaminable 
This Clytemnestra was her sister, low-statured, fierce-lipped, not 

dark nor blonde, greenish-gray-eyed, 
Sinewed with strength, you saw, under the purple folds of the 

queen-cloak, but craftier than queenly, 
Standing between the gilded wooden porch-pillars, great steps of 

stone above the steep street, 
Awaiting the King. 

Most of his men were quartered on the town; 

he, clanking bronze, with fifty 
And certain captives, came to the stair. The Queen's men were 

a hundred in the street and a hundred 
Lining the ramp, eighty on the great flags of the porch; she 

raising her white arms the spear-butts 
Thundered on the stone, and the shields clashed; eight shining 

Let fly from the wide window over the entrance the wildbirds of 

their metal throats, air-cleaving 
Over the King come home. He raised his thick burnt-colored 

beard and smiled; then Clytemnestra, 
Gathering the robe, setting the golden-sandaled feet carefully, 

stone by stone, descended 
One half the stair. But one of the captives marred the comeliness 

of that embrace with a cry 
Gull-shrill, blade-sharp, cutting between the purple cloak and 

the bronze plates, then Clytemnestra: 
Who was it? The King answered: A piece of our goods out of 

the snatch of Asia, a daughter of the king, 
So treat her kindly and she may come into her wits again. Eh, 

you keep state here my queen. 


YouVe not been the poorer for me. In heart, in the widowed 

chamber, dear, she pale replied, though the slaves 
Toiled, the spearmen were faithful. What's her name, the slave- 


AGAMEMNON Come up the stair. They tell me my kinsman's 
Lodged himself on you. 
CLYTEMNESTRA Your cousin ^Egisthus? He was out of refuge, 

flits between here and Tiryns. 
Dear: the girl's name? 
AGAMEMNON Cassandra. We've a hundred or so other 

captives; besides two hundred 
Rotted in the hulls, they tell odd stories about you and your 

guest: eh? no matter: the ships 
Ooze pitch and the August road smokes dirt, I smell like an 

old shepherd's goatskin, you'll have bath-water? 


They're making it hot. Come, my lord. My hands will pour it. 

(They enter the palace.) 


In the holy city, 

In Troy, when the stone was standing walls and the ash 

Was painted and carved wood and pictured curtains, 

And those lived that are dead, they had caged a den 

Of wolves out of the mountain, and I a maiden 

Was led to see them: it stank and snarled, 

The smell was the smell here, the eyes were the eyes 

Of steep Mycenae: O God guardian of wanderers 

Let me die easily. 

So cried Cassandra the daughter of King Priam, treading the steps 
of the palace at Mycenae. 

Swaying like a drunken woman, drunk with the rolling of the 
ship, and with tears, and with prophecy. 

The stair may yet be seen, among the old stones that are Mycenae; 
tall dark Cassandra, the prophetess, 

The beautiful girl with whom a God bargained for love, high- 
nurtured, captive, shamefully stained 

With the ship's filth and the sea's, rolled her dark head upon her 
shoulders like a drunken woman 



And trod the great stones of the stair. The captives, she among 

them, were ranked into a file 
On the flagged porch, between the parapet and the spearmen. 

The people below shouted for the King, 
King Agamemnon, returned conqueror, after the ten years of 

battle and death in Asia. 
Then cried Cassandra: 

Good spearmen you did not kill my father, not you 
Violated my mother with the piercing 
That makes no life in the womb, not you defiled 
My tall blond brothers with the masculine lust 
That strikes its loved one standing, 
And leaves him what no man again nor a girl 
Ever will gaze upon with the eyes of desire: 
Therefore you'll tell me 

Whether it's an old custom in the Greek country 
The cow goring the bull, break the inner door back 
And see in what red water how cloaked your King 
Bathes, and my brothers are avenged a little. 
One said: Captive be quiet. And she: What have I to be quiet for, 

you will not believe me. 
Such wings my heart spreads when the red runs out of any 

Greek, I must let the bird fly. O soldiers 
He that mishandled me dies! The first, one of your two brute 

A j axes, that threw me backward 
On the temple flagstones, a hard bride-bed, I enduring him 

heard the roofs of my city breaking, 
The roar of flames and spearmen: what came to Ajax? Out of a 

cloud the loud-winged falcon lightning 
Came on him shipwrecked, clapped its wings about him, clung 

to him, the violent flesh burned and the bones 
Broke from each other in that passion; and now this one, returned 

safe, the Queen is his lightning. 
While she yet spoke a slave with haggard eyes darted from the 

door; there were hushed cries and motions 
In the inner dark of the great hall. Then the Queen Clytem- 

nestra issued, smiling. She drew 



Her cloak up, for the brooch on the left shoulder was broken; the 
fillet of her hair had come unbound; 

Yet now she was queenly at length; and standing at the stair- 
head spoke: Men of Mycenae, I have made 

Sacrifice for the joy this day has brought to us, the King come 
home, the enemy fallen, fallen, 

In the ashes of Asia. I have made sacrifice. I made the prayer 
with my own lips, and struck the bullock 

With my own hand. The people murmured together, She's not 
a priestess, the Queen is not a priestess, 

What has she done there, what wild sayings 

Make wing in the Queen's throat? 

CLYTEMNESTRA I have something to tell you. 

Too much joy is a message-bearer of misery. 

A little is good; but come too much and it devours us. Therefore 
we give of a great harvest 

Sheaves to the smiling Gods; and therefore out of a full cup we 
pour the quarter. No man 

Dare take all that God sends him, whom God favors, or de- 

Rides into the house in the last basket. I have been twelve years 
your shepherdess, I the Queen have ruled you 

And I am accountable for you. 


Why should a man kill his own mother? 

The cub of the lion being grown 

Will fight with the lion, but neither lion nor wolf 

Nor the unclean jackal 

Bares tooth against the womb that he dropped out of: 

Yet I have seen 


Strike that captive woman with your hand, spearman; and then 

if the spirit 

Of the she-wolf in her will not quiet, with the butt of the spear. 
CASSANDRA the blade in the child's hand 
Enter the breast that the child sucked that woman's 
The left breast that the robe has dropped from, for the brooch is 




That very hillock of whiteness, and she crying, she kneeling 
(The spearman 'who is nearest CASSANDRA covers her mouth 
t with his hand.) 


My sister's beauty entered Troy with too much gladness. They 

forgot to make sacrifice. 
Therefore destruction entered; therefore the daughters of Troy 

cry out in strange dispersals, and this one 
Grief has turned mad. I will not have that horror march under 

the Lion-gate of Mycenae 
That split the citadel of Priam. Therefore I say I have made 

sacrifice; I have subtracted 

A fraction from immoderate joy. For consider, my people, 
How unaccountably God has favored the city and brought home 

the army. King Agamemnon, 
My dear, my husband, my lord and yours, 

Is yet not such a man as the Gods love; but insolent, fierce, over- 
bearing, whose folly 
Brought many times many great evils 
On all the heads and fighting hopes of the Greek force. Why, 

even before the fleet made sail, 
While yet it gathered on Boeotian Aulis, this man offended. He 

slew one of the deer 
Of the sacred herd of Artemis, out of pure impudence, hunter's 

pride that froths in a young boy 
Laying nock to string of his first bow: this man, grown, a grave 

king, leader of the Greeks. 
The angry Goddess 
Blew therefore from the horn of the Trojan shore storm without 

end, no slackening, no turn, no slumber 
Of the eagle bound to break the oars of the fleet and split the 

hulls venturing: you know what answer < 

Calchas the priest gave: his flesh must pay whose hand did the 

evil his flesh! mine also. His? My daughter. 
They knew that of my three there was one that I loved. 
Blameless white maid, my Iphigenia, whose throat the knife, 
Whose delicate soft throat the thing that cuts sheep open was 

drawn across by a priest's hand 



And the soft-colored lips drained bloodless 
That had clung herehere Oh! 

(Drawing the robe from her breasts.) 
These feel soft, townsmen; these are red at the tips, they have 

neither blackened nor turned marble. 
King Agamemnon hoped to pillow his black-haired breast upon 

them, my husband, that mighty conqueror, 
Come home with glory. He thought they were still a woman's, 

they appear a woman's. I'll tell you something. 
Since fawn slaughtered for slaughtered fawn evened the debt 

these that feel soft and warm are wounding ice, 
They ache with their hardness . . . 
Shall I go on and count the other follies of the King? The 

insolences to God and man 
That brought down plague, and brought Achilles' anger against 

the army? Yet God brought home a remnant 
Against all hope: therefore rejoice. 
But lest too much rejoicing slay us I have made sacrifice. A little 

girl's brought you over the sea. 
What could be great enough for safe return? A sheep's death? 

A bull's? What thank-offering? 
All these captives, battered from the ships, bruised with captivity, 

damaged flesh and forlorn minds? 
God requires wholeness in the victim. You dare not think what 

he demands. I dared. I, I, 
Men of the Argolis, you that went over the sea and you that 

guarded the home coasts 
And high stone war-belts of the cities: remember how many 

spearmen these twelve years have called me 
Queen, and have loved me, and been faithful, and remain faithful. 

What I bring you is accomplished. 

King Agamemnon. The King. We will hear the King. 
CLYTEMNESTRA What I bring you is accomplished. 

Accept it, the cities are at peace, the ways are safe between 

them, the Gods favor us. Refuse it ... 
You will not refuse it ... 



VOICES The King. We will hear the King. Let 

us see the King. 


You will not refuse it; I have my faithful They would run, the 

red rivers, 
From the gate and by the graves through every crooked street 

of the great city, they would run in the pasture 
Outside the walls: and on this stair: stemmed at this entrance 


Ah, sister, do you also behold visions? I was watching red 


Be wise, townsmen. As for the King: slaves will bring him to you 

when he has bathed; you will see him. 
The slaves will carry him on a litter, he has learned Asian ways in 

Asia, too great a ruler 
To walk, like common spearmen. 
CASSANDRA Who is that, standing behind 

you, Clytemnestra? What God 
Dark in the doorway? 
CLYTEMNESTRA Deal you with your own demons. You 

know what I have done, captive. You know 
I am holding lions with my two eyes: if I turn and loose 

them . . . 
CASSANDRA It is . . . the King. There! There! Ah! 


Or of I should make any move to increase confusion. If I should 

say for example, Spearman 
Kill that woman. I cannot say it this moment; so little as from 

one spear wound in your body 
A trickle would loose them on us. 
CASSANDRA Yet he stands behind you. 

A-ah! I can bear it. I have seen much lately 

A CAPTAIN (down the stair; standing forward from his men) 
O Queen, there is no man in the world, but one (if that one 

lives), may ask you to speak 



Otherwise than you will. You have spoken in riddles to the 

people . . . 

CASSANDRA Not me! Why will you choose 

Me! I submitted to you living, I was forced, you entered me . . . 
THE CAPTAIN Also there was a slave here, 
Whose eyes stood out from his chalk face, came buzzing from 

the palace postern gate, whimpering 
A horrible thing. I killed him. But the men have heard it. 
CASSANDRA You were the king, I was your slave. 

Here you see, here, I took the black-haired breast of the bull, 

I endured it, I opened my thighs, I suffered 
The other thing besides death that you Greeks have to give 

us ... 
THE CAPTAIN Though this one raves and you are silent, 

Queen, terrible-eyed . . . 

CASSANDRA That was the slave's part: but this 

time . . . dead King . . . 

1 ... will . . . not submit. Ah! Ah! No! 

If you will steal the body of someone living take your wife's, 
take that soldier's there 


I pray you Queen command the captive woman be quieted in a 
stone chamber; she increases confusion, 

The soldiers cannot know some terrible thing may not have 
happened; you men and the King's grin 

Like wolves over the kill, the whole city totters on a sword- 
edge over sudden 

CASSANDRA (screaming) 

Drive him off me! Pity, pity! 

I have no power; I thought when he was dead another man would 
use me, your Greek custom, 

Not he, he, newly slain. 

He is driving me out, he enters, he possesses, this is my last de- 
filement. Ah . . . Greeks . . . 

Pity Cassandra! 

With the voice the spirit seemed to fly out. 
She upflung her shining 


Arms with the dreadful and sweet gesture of a woman surrender- 
ing utterly to force and love, 
She in the eyes of the people, like a shameless woman, and fell 

writhing, and the dead King's soul 
Entered her body. In that respite the Queen: 

Captain: and you, 

soldiers, that shift unsoldierly 
The weapons that should be upright, at attention, like stiff 

grass-blades: and you, people of Mycenae: 
While this one maddened, and you muttered, echoing together, 

and you, soldier, with anxious questions 
Increased confusion: who was it that stood firm, who was it that 

stood silent, who was it that held 
With her two eyes the whole city from splitting wide asunder? 

Your Queen was it? I am your Queen, 
And now I will answer what you asked. ... It is true. . . . He 

has died. ... I am the Queen. 
My little son Orestes will grow up and govern you. 

While she 

spoke the body of Cassandra 
Arose among the shaken spears, taller than the spears, and stood 

among the waving spears 
Stone-quiet, like a high war-tower in a windy pinewood, bu\ 

deadly to look at, with blind and tyrannous 
Eyes; and the Queen: All is accomplished; and if you are wise, 

people of Mycenae: quietness is wisdom. 
No tumult will call home a dead man out of judgment. The end 

is the end. Ah, soldiers! Down spears! 
What, now Troy's fallen you think there's not a foreigner in 

the world bronze may quench thirst on? Lion-cubs, 
If you will tear each other in the lair happy the wolves, happy 

the hook-nose vultures. 
Call the eaters of carrion? I am your Queen, I am speaking to 

you, you will hear me out before you whistle 
The foul beaks from the mountain nest. I tell you I will forget 

mercy if one man moves now. 
I rule you, L 



The Gods have satisfied themselves in this man's death; there 

shall not one drop of the blood of the city 
Be shed further. I say the high Gods are content; as for the 

And the great ghost of the King: my slaves will bring out the 

King's body decently before you 
And set it here, in the eyes of the city: spices the ships bring from 

the south will comfort his spirit; 
Mycenae and Tiryns and the shores will mourn him aloud; sheep 

will be slain for him; a hundred beeves 
Spill their thick blood into the trenches; captives and slaves go 

down to serve him, yes all these captives 
Burn in the ten-day fire with him, unmeasured wine quench it, 

urned in pure gold the gathered ashes 
Rest forever in the sacred rock; honored; a conqueror. . . . 

Slaves, bring the King out of the house. 
Alas my husband! she cried, clutching the brown strands of her 

hair in both her hands, you have left me 
A woman among lions! Ah, the King's power, ah the King's 

victories! Weep for me, Mycenae! 
Widowed of the King! 

The people stood amazed, like sheep that 

snuff at their dead shepherd, some hunter's 
Ill-handled arrow having struck him from the covert, all by 

mischance; he is fallen on the hillside 
Between the oak-shadow and the stream; the sun burns his dead 

face, his staff lies by him, his dog 
Licks his hand, whining. So, like sheep, the people 
Regarded that dead majesty whom the slaves brought out of the 

house on a gold bed, and set it 
Between the pillars of the porch. His royal robe covered his 

wounds, there was no stain 
Nor discomposure. 

Then that captain who had spoken before: 

O Queen, before the mourning 
The punishment: tell us who has done this. She raised her head, 

and not a woman but a lioness 


Blazed at him from her eyes: Dog, she answered, dog of the 

Who said Speak dog, and you dared speak? Justice is mine. 

Then he was silent; but Cassandra's 
Body standing tall among the spears, over the parapet, her body 

but not her spirit 
Cried with a man's voice: Shall not even the stones of the stair, 

shall not the stones under the columns 
Speak, and the towers of the great wall of my city come down 

against the murderess? O Mycenae 
I yearned to night and day under the tents by Troy, O Tiryns, 

O Mycenae, the door 
Of death, and the gate before the door! 
CLYTEMNESTRA That woman lies, or the 

spirit of a lie cries from her. Spearman, 
Kill that woman! 

But Cassandra's body set its back against the 

parapet, its face 
Terribly fronting the raised knife; and called the soldier by his 

name, in the King's voice, saying 
Sheathe it; and the knife lowered, and the soldier 
Fell on his knees before the King in the woman's body; and the 

body of Cassandra cried from the parapet: 
Horrible things, horrible things this house has witnessed: but here 

is the most vile, that hundreds 

Of spears are idle while the murderess, Clytemnestra the mur- 
deress, the snake that came upon me 
Naked and bathing, the death that lay with me in bed, the death 

that has borne children to me, 
Stands there unslain. 
CLYTEMNESTRA Cowards, if the bawling of that bewildered 

heifer from Troy fields has frightened you 
How did you bear the horns of her brothers? Bring her to me. 


Let no man doubt, men of Mycenae, 

She has yet the knife hid in her clothes, the very blade that 
stabbed her husband and the blood is on it. 



Look, she handles it now. Look, fellows. The hand under the 
robe. Slay her not easily, that she-wolf. 

Do her no honor with a spear! Ah! If I could find the word, if 
I could find it, 

The name of her, to say husband-slayer and bed-defiler, bitch 
and wolf-bitch, king's assassin 

And beast, beast, beast, all in one breath, in one word: spearmen 

You would heap your shields over this woman and crush her 
slowly, slowly, while she choked and screamed, 

No, you would peel her bare and on the pavement for a bride- 
bed with a spear-butt for husband 

Dig the lewd womb until it burst: this for Agamemnon, this for 
^gisthus Agh, cowards of the city 

Do you stand quiet? 

CLYTEMNESTRA Truly, soldiers, 

I think it is he verily. No one could invent the abominable voice, 
the unspeakable gesture, 

The actual raging insolence of the tyrant. I am the hand ridded 
the Argolis of him. 

I here, I killed him, I, justly. 

THE BODY OF CASSANDRA You have heard her, you have 

heard her, she has made confession. 

Now if she'll show you the knife too 

CLYTEMNESTRA Here. I kept it for safety. 

And, as that beast said, his blood's yet on it. 

Look at it, with so little a key I unlocked the kingdom of de- 
struction. Stand firm, till a God 

Lead home this ghost to the dark country 

So many Greeks have peopled, through his crimes, his violence, 
his insolence, stand firm till that moment 

And through the act of this hand and of this point no man shall 
suffer anything again forever 

Of Agamemnon. 


I say if you let this woman live, this crime go 
unpunished, what man among you 

Will be safe in his bed? The woman ever envies the man, his 
strength, his freedom, his loves. 



Her envy is like a snake beside him, all his life through, her envy 

and hatred: law tames that viper: 
Law dies if the Queen die not: the viper is free then. 
It will be poison in your meat or a knife to bleed you sleeping. 

They fawn and slaver over us 
And then we are slain. 
CLYTEMNESTRA (to one of the slaves that carried the Kings* 


Is my lord ^Egisthus 
Slain on the way? How long? How long? 

(To the people) He 

came, fat with his crimes. 
Greek valor broke down Troy, your valor, soldiers, and the brain 

of Odysseus, the battle-fury of Achilles, 
The stubborn strength of Menelaus, the excellence of you all: 

this dead man here, his pride 
Ruined you a hundred times: he helped nowise, he brought bitter 

destruction: but he gathered your glory 
For the cloak of his shoulders. I saw him come up the stair, I saw 

my child Iphigenia 
Killed for his crime; I saw his harlot, the captive woman there, 

crying out behind him, I saw . . . 
I saw ... I saw . . . how can I speak what crowd of the dead 

faces of the faithful Greeks, 
Your brothers, dead of his crimes; those that perished of plague 

and those that died in the lost battles 
After he had soured the help of Achilles for another harlot 

those dead faces of your brothers, 
Some black with the death-blood, many trampled under the 

hooves of horses, many spotted with pestilence, 
Flew all about him, all lamenting, all crying out against him, 

horrible horrible I gave them 
Vengeance; and you freedom. 

(To the slave) Go up and look, 

for God's sake, go up to the parapets, 
Look toward the mountain. Bring me word quickly, my strength 

How can I hold all the Argolis with my eyes forever? I alone? 



Hell cannot hold her dead men, 

Keep watch there send me word by othersgo, go! 

(To the people) He 

came triumphing. 

Magnificent, abominable, all in bronze. 
I brought him to the bath; my hands undid the armor; 
My hands poured out the water; 
Dead faces like flies buzzed all about us; 

He stripped himself before me, loathsome, unclean, with laughter; 
The labors of the Greeks had made him fat, the deaths of the 

faithful had swelled his belly; 

I threw a cloak over him for a net and struck, struck, struck, 
Blindly, in the steam of the bath; he bellowed, netted, 
And bubbled in the water; 
All the stone vault asweat with steam bellowed; 
And I undid the net and the beast was dead, and the broad vessel 
Stank with his blood. 


The word! The word! O burning mind of God r 
If ever I gave you bulls teach me that word, the name for her, 

the name for her! 

A SLAVE (running from the door; to CLYTEMNESTRA) 
My lord .T<ji*ihi-> has come down the mountain, Queen, he 

approaches the Lion-gate. 

CLYTEMNESTRA It is time. I am tired now. 

Meet him and tell him to come in the postern doorway. 
THE CAPTAIN (on the stair: addressing the soldiers and the people 

Companions: before God, hating the smell of crimes, crushes the 

city into gray ashes 

We must make haste. Judge now and act. For the husband-slayer 
I say she must die, let her pay forfeit. And for the great ghost 

of the King, let all these captives, 
But chiefly the woman Cassandra, the crier in a man's voice there, 

be slain upon his pyre to quiet him. 

He will go down to his dark place and God will spare the city. 

(To the soldiers above, on the ramp and the porch) 

Comrades: Mycenae is greater 



Than the Queen of Mycenae. The King is dead: let the Queen 

die: let the city live. Comrades, 
We suffered something in Asia, on the stranger's coast, laboring 

for you. We dreamed of home there 
In the bleak wind and drift of battle; we continued ten years, 

laboring and dying; we accomplished 
The task set us; we gathered what will make all the Greek cities 

glorious, a name forever; 
We shared the spoil, taking our share to enrich Mycenae. O but 

our hearts burned then, O comrades 
But our hearts melted when the great oars moved the ships, the 

water carried us, the blue sea-waves 
Slid under the black keel; I could not see them, I was blind with 

tears, thinking of Mycenae. 

We have come home. Behold the dear streets of our longing, 
The stones that we desired, the steep ways of the city and the 

sacred doorsteps 

Reek and steam with pollution, the accursed vessel 
Spills a red flood over the floors. 
The fountain of it stands there and calls herself the Queen. No 

Queen, no Queen, that husband-slayer, 
A common murderess. Comrades join us 
We will make clean the city and sweeten it before God. We 

will mourn together at the King's burying, 
And a good year will come, we will rejoice together. 
CLYTEMNESTRA Dog, you dare 

something. Fling no spear, soldiers, 
He has a few fools back of him would attempt the stair if the 

dog were slain: I will have no one 
Killed out of need. 
ONE OF HER MEN ON THE PORCH (flinging his spear) 

Not at him: at you 

But some God, no lover of justice, turned it; the 

great bronze tip grazing her shoulder 
Clanged on the stones behind: the gong of a change in the dance: 

now Clytemnestra, none to help her, 



One against all, swayed raging by the King's corpse, over the 

golden bed: it is said that a fire 
Stood visibly over her head, mixed in the hair, pale flames and 


CLYTEMNESTRA Here am I, thieves, thieves, 
Drunkards, here is my breast, a deep white mark for cowards to 

aim at: kings have lain on it. 
No spear yet, heroes, heroes? 
See, I have no blemish: the arms are white, the breasts are deep 

and white, the whole body is blemishless: 
You are tired of your brown wives, draw lots for me, rabble, 

thieves, there is loot here, shake the dice, thieves, a game yet! 
One of you will take the bronze and one the silver, 
One the gold, and one me, 
Me Clytemnestra a spoil worth having: 

Kings have kissed me, this dead dog was a king, there is another 
King at the gate: thieves, thieves, would not this shining 
Breast brighten a sad thief's hut, roll in his bed's filth 
Shiningly? You could teach me to draw water at the fountain, 
A dirty child on the other hip: where are the dice? Let me 

throw first, if I throw sixes 

I choose my masters: closer you rabble, let me smell you. 
Don't fear the knife, it has king's blood on it, I keep it for an 

It has shot its sting. 

THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Fools, fools, Strike! 

Are your hands dead? 

CLYTEMNESTRA You WOuld SCC all of me 

Before you choose whether to kill or dirtily cherish? If what 

the King's used needs commending 
To the eyes of thieves for thieves' use: give me room, give me 

room, fellows, you'll see it is faultless. 
The dress . . . there . . . 

THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Fools this wide whore played wife 
When she was going about to murder me the King; you, will 

you let her trip you 
With the harlot's trick? Strike! Make an end! 



CLYTEMNESTRA I have not my 

sister's, Troy's flame's beauty, but I have something. 

This arm, round, firm, skin without hair, polished like marble: 
the supple-jointed shoulders: 

Men have praised the smooth neck, too, 

The strong clear throat over the deep wide breasts . . . 


buying an hour: sheep: it may be ^Egisthus 
Is at the Lion-gate. 

CLYTEMNESTRA If he were here, -flEgisthus, 
Fd not be the pedlar of what trifling charms I have for an 

hour of life yet. You have wolves' eyes: 
Yet there is something kindly about the blue ones there yours, 

young soldier, young soldier. . . . The last, 
The under-garment? You won't buy me yet? This dead dog, 
The King here, never saw me naked: I had the night for nurse: 

turn his head sideways, the eyes 
Are only half shut. If I should touch him, and the blood came, 

you'd say I had killed him. Nobody, nobody, 
Killed him: his pride burst. 
Ah, no one has pity! 

I can serve well, I have always envied your women, the public ones. 
Who takes me first? Tip that burnt log onto the flagstones, 
This will be in a king's bed then. Your eyes are wolves' eyes: 
So many, so many, so famishing 
I will undo it, handle me not yet, I can undo it ... 
Or I will tear it. 
And when it is off me then I will be delivered to you beasts . . . 


Then strip her and use her to the bones, wear her through, kill 
her with it. 


When it is torn 

You'll say I am lovely: no one has seen before . . . 
It won't tear: I'll slit it with this knife 

(AGISTHUS, with many spearmen, issues from the great door. 
CLYTEMNESTRA stabs right and left with the knife; the 
men are too close to strike her with their long spears.) 




It's time. Cowards, goats, goats. Here! ^Egisthus! 


I am here. What have they done? 


Nothing: clear the porch: / have done something. Drive them 

on the stair! 
Three of them I've scarred for life: a rough bridegroom, the 

rabble, met a fierce bride. 

(She catches up her robe.) 
I held them with my eyes, hours, hours. I am not tired. . . . 

My lord, my lover: 
I have killed a twelve-point stag for a present for you: with my 

own hands: look, on the golden litter. 
You arrive timely. 


Tricked, stabbed, shamed, mocked at, the spoil of a lewd woman, 

I lie there ready for her back-stairs darling to spit on. Tricked, 
stabbed, sunk in the drain 

And gutter of time. I that thundered the assault, I that mustered 
the Achxans. Cast out of my kingdom, 

Cast out of time, out of the light. 

CLYTEMNESTRA One of the captives, dear. 

It left its poor wits 

Over the sea. If it annoys you I'll quiet it. But post your sen- 

All's not safe yet, though I am burning with joy now. 


eyed glare of the sky 

Flying southwest to the mountain: sun, through a slave's eyes, 
My own broken, I see you this last day; my own darkened, no 

dawn forever; the adulterers 
Will swim in your warm gold, day after day; the eyes of the 

murderess will possess you; 
And I have gone away down: knowing that no God in the earth 

nor sky loves justice; and having tasted 



The toad that serves women for heart. From now on may all 


Marry them with swords. Those that have borne children 
Their sons rape them with spears. 
CLYTEMNESTRA More yet, more, more, more, 

while my hand's in? It's not a little 
You easily living lords of the sky require of who'd be like you, 

who'd take time in the triumph, 
Build joy solid. Do we have to do everything? I have killed 

what I hated: 
Kill what I love? The prophetess said it, this dead man says it: 

my little son, the small soft image 

That squirmed in my arms be an avenger? Love, from your loins 
Seed: I begin new, I will be childless for you. The child my son, 

the child my daughter! 
Though I cry I feel nothing. 
JEGISTHUS O strongest spirit in the world. 

We have dared enough, there is an end to it. 
We may pass nature a little, an arrow-flight, 
But two shots over the wall you come in a cloud upon the feast- 
ing Gods, lightning and madness. 


Dear: make them safe. They may try to run away, the children. 

Set spears to watch them: no harm, no harm, 
But stab the nurse if they go near a door. Watch them, keep the 

gates, order the sentinels, 

While / make myself Queen over this people again. I can do it. 
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA The sun's gone; that glimmer's 

The moon of the dead. The dark God calls me. Yes, God, 
I'll come in a moment. 

CLYTEMNESTRA (at the head of the great stairs) 
Soldiers: townsmen: it seems 
I am not at the end delivered to you: dogs, for the lion came: 

the poor brown and spotted women 
Will have to suffice you. But is it nothing to have come within 

handling distance of the clear heaven 
This dead man knew when he was young and God endured him? 

Is it nothing to you? 



It is something to me to have felt the fury 

And concentration of you: I will not say I am grateful: I am 
not angry: to be desired 

Is wine even to a queen. You bathed me in it, from brow to foot- 
sole, I had nearly enough. 

But now remember that the dream is over. I am the Queen: 
Mycenae is my city. If you grin at me 

I have spears: also Tiryns and all the country people of the 
Argolis will come against you and swallow you, 

Empty out these ways and walls, stock them with better subjects. 
A rock nest for new birds here, townsfolk: 

You are not essential. 

THE BODY OF CASSANDRA. I hear him calling through the she- 
wolf's noise, Agamemnon, Agamemnon, 

The dark God calls. Some old king in a fable is it? 


What choices? To reenter my service 

Unpunished, no thought of things past, free of conditions . . . 
Or dine at this man's table, have new mouths made in you to 

eat bronze with. 
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Who is Agamemnon? 


You letting go of the sun: is it dark the land you are running 
away to? 


CLYTEMNESTRA IS it Sorrowful? 


There is nothing but misery. 

CLYTEMNESTRA Has any man ever come back thence? 

Hear me y not the dark God. 
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA No man has ever. 


Go then, go, go down. You will not choose to follow him, people 

of the rock-city? No one 
Will choose to follow him. I have killed: it is easy: it may be 

I shall kill nearer than this yet: 
But not you, townsfolk, you will give me no cause; I want 

security; I want service, not blood. 



I have been desired of the whole city, publicly; I want service, 

not lust. You will make no sign 
Of your submission; you will not give up your weapons; neither 

shall your leaders be slain; 

And he that flung the spear, I have forgotten his face. 
AZGISTHUS (entering) Dearest, 

they have gone, the nurse and the children, 
No one knows where. 
CLYTEMNESTRA I am taming this people: send men after 

them. If any harm comes to the children 
Bring me tokens. I will not be in doubt, I will not have the arch 

fall on us. I dare 
What no one dares. I envy a little the dirty mothers of the city. 

O, O! 
Nothing in me hurts. I have animal waters in my eyes, but the 

spirit is not wounded. Electra and Orestes 
Are not to live when they are caught. Bring me sure tokens. 
CASSANDRA Who is this woman like a beacon 

Lit on the stair, who are these men with dogs' heads? 
I have ranged time and seen no sight like this one. 


Have you returned, Cassandra? . . . The dead king has gone 
down to his place, we may bury his leavings. 


I have witnessed all the wars to be; I am not sorrowful 

For one drop from the pail of desolation 

Spilt on my father's city; they were carrying it forward 

To water the world under the latter starlight. 

CLYTEMNESTRA (to her slaves) 

Take up the poles of the bed; reverently; careful on the stair; 

give him to the people. (To the people) O soldiers 
This was your leader; lay him with honor in the burial-chapel; 

guard him with the spears of victory; 
Mourn him until to-morrow, when the pyre shall be built. 
Ah, King of men, sleep, sleep, sleep! 
. . . But when shall I? ... They are after their corpse, like 

dogs after the butcher's cart. Cleomenes, that captain 



With the big voice: Neobulus was the boy who flung the spear 

and missed. / shall not miss 
When spear-flinging-time comes. . . . Captive woman, you have 

seen the future, tell me my fortune. 

(jEGisxHus comes from the doorway.) 


Have your hounds got them? 
^EGISTHUS I've covered every escape with men, 

they'll not slip through me. But commanded 
To bring them here living. 
CLYTEMNESTRA That's hard: tigresses don't do it: I 

have some strength yet: don't speak of it 
And I shall do it. 
^EGISTHUS It is a thing not to be done: we'll guard them 

closely: but mere madness 
Lies over the wall of too-much. 
CLYTEMNESTRA King of Mycenae, new-crowned 

king, who was your mother? 
^GISTHUS Pelopia. 

What mark do you aim at? 
CLYTEMNESTRA And your father? 

^GISTHUS Thyestes. 

CLYTEMNESTRA And her father? 


same man, Thyestes. 


See, dearest, dearest? They love what men call crime, they have 

taken her crime to be the king of Mycenae. 
Here is the stone garden of the plants that pass nature: there is 

no too-much here: the monstrous 
Old rocks want monstrous roots to serpent among them. I will 

have security. I'd burn the standing world 
Up to this hour and begin new. You think I am too much used 

for a new brood? Ah, lover, 
I have fountains in me. I had a fondness for the brown cheek 

of that boy, the curl of his lip, 
The widening blue of the doomed eyes ... I will be spared 

nothing. Come in, come in, they'll have news for us. 




If anywhere in the world 

Were a tower with foundations, or a treasure-chamber 

With a firm vault, or a walled fortress 

That stood on the years, not staggering, not moving 

As the mortar were mixed with wine for water 

And poppy for lime: they reel, they are all drunkards, 

The piled strengths of the world: no pyramid 

In bitter Egypt in the desert 

But skips at moonrise; no mountain 

Over the Black Sea in awful Caucasus 

But whirls like a young kid, like a bud of the herd, 

Under the hundredth star: I am sick after steadfastness 

Watching the world cataractlike 

Pour screaming onto steep ruins: for the wings of prophecy 

God once my lover give me stone sandals 

Planted on stone: he hates me, the God, he will never 

Take home the gift of the bridleless horse 

The stallion, the unbitted stallion: the bed 

Naked to the sky on Mount Ida, 

The soft clear grass there, 

Be blackened forever, may vipers and Greeks 

In that glen breed 

Twisting together, where the God 

Come golden from the sun 

Gave me for a bride-gift prophecy and I took it for a treasure: 

I a fool, I a maiden, 

I would not let him touch me though love of him maddened me 

Till he fed me that poison, till he planted that fire in me, 

The girdle flew loose then. 

The Queen considered this rock, she gazed on the great stone 

blocks of Mycenae's acropolis; 
Monstrous they seemed to her, solid they appeared to her, safe 

rootage for monstrous deeds: Ah fierce one 
Who knows who laid them for a snare? What people in the 

world's dawn breathed on chill air and the vapor 



Of their breath seemed stone and has stood and you dream it is 

established? These also are a foam on the stream 
Of the falling of the world: there is nothing to lay hold on: 
No crime is a crime, the slaying of the King was a meeting of 

two bubbles on the lip of the cataract, 
One winked . . . and the killing of your children would be 

nothing: I tell you for a marvel that the earth is a dancer, 
The grave dark earth is less quiet than a fool's fingers, 
That old one, spinning in the emptiness, blown by no wind in 

vain circles, light-witted and a dancer. 
CLYTEMNESTRA (entering) 
You are prophesying: prophesy to a purpose, captive woman. 

My children, the boy and the girl, 
Have wandered astray, no one can find them. 
CASSANDRA Shall I tell the lioness 

Where meat is, or the she-wolf where the lambs wander astray? 
CLYTEMNESTRA But look into the darkness 
And foam of the world: the boy has great tender blue eyes, 

brown hair, disdainful lips, you'll know him 
By the gold stripe bordering his garments; the girl's eyes are 

my color, white her clothing 

Of shining bubbles burst and wander 
On the stream of the world falling . . . 
CLYTEMNESTRA These are my children! 


mountains, I see no faces. 


Tell me and I make you free; conceal it from me and a soldier's 
spear finishes the matter. 


I am the spear's bride, I have been waiting, waiting for that 


CLYTEMNESTRA (striking her) Live then. It will not be unpainful. 

(CLYTEMNESTRA goes in.) 


O fair roads north where the land narrows 
Over the mountains between the great gulfs, 



that I too with the King's children 
Might wander northward hand in hand. 
Mine are worse wanderings: 

They will shelter on Mount Parnassus, 

For me there is no mountain firm enough, 

The storms of light beating on the headlands, 

The storms of music undermine the mountains, they stumble 
and fall inward, 

Such music the stars 

Make in their courses, the vast vibration 

Plucks the iron heart of the earth like a harp-string. 

Iron and stone core, O stubborn axle of the earth, you also 

Dissolving in a little time like salt in water, 

What does it matter that I have seen Macedon 

Roll all the Greek cities into one billow and strand in Asia 

The anthers and bracts of the flower of the world? 

That I have seen Egypt and Nineveh 

Crumble, and a Latian village 

Plant the earth with javelins? It made laws for all men, it dis- 
solved like a cloud. 

1 have also stood watching a storm of wild swans 

Rise from one river-mouth . . . O force of the earth rising, 

O fallings of the earth: forever no rest, not forever 

From the wave and the trough, from the stream and the slack, 

from growth and decay: O vulture- 
Pinioned, my spirit, one flight yet, last, longest, unguided, 
Try into the gulf, 
Over Greece, over Rome, you have space O my spirit for the 



Are not few of captivity: how many have I stood here 

Among the great stones, while the Queen's people 

Go in and out of the gate, wearing light linen 

For summer and the wet spoils of wild beasts 

In the season of storms: and the stars have changed, I have 

The grievous and unprayed-to constellations 



Pile steaming spring and patient autumn 

Over the enduring walls: but you over the walls of the world, 

Over the unquieted centuries, over the darkness-hearted 

Millenniums wailing thinly to be born, O vulture-pinioned 

Try into the dark, 

Watch the north spawn white bodies and red-gold hair, 

Race after race of beastlike warriors; and the cities 

Burn, and the cities build, and new lands be uncovered 

In the way of the sun to his setting ... go on farther, what 

In the wars and the toils? but I say 

Where are prosperous people my enemies are, as you pass them 
O my spirit 

Curse Athens for the joy and the marble, curse Corinth 

For the wine and the purple, and Syracuse 

For the gold and the ships; but Rome, Rome, 

With many destructions for the corn and the laws and the jave- 
lins, the insolence, the threefold 

Abominable power: pass the humble 

And the lordships of darkness, but far down 

Smite Spain for the blood on the sunset gold, curse France 

For the fields abounding and the running rivers, the lights in the 
cities, the laughter, curse England 

For the meat on the tables and the terrible gray ships, for old 
laws, far dominions, there remains 

A mightier to be cursed and a higher for malediction 

When America has eaten Europe and takes tribute of Asia, when 
the ends of the world grow aware of each other 

And are dogs in one kennel, they will tear 

The master of the hunt with the mouths of the pack: new fall- 
ings, new risings, O winged one 

No end of the fallings and risings? An end shall be surely, 

Though unnatural things are accomplished, they breathe in the 
sea's depth, 

They swim in the air, they bridle the cloud-leaper lightning to 
carry their messages: 

Though the eagles of the east and the west and the falcons of 
the north were not quieted, you have seen a white cloth 



Cover the lands from the north and the eyes of the lands and the 

claws of the hunters, 
The mouths of the hungry with snow 
Were filled, and their claws 
Took hold upon ice in the pasture, a morsel of ice was their 

catch in the rivers, 
That pure white quietness 
Waits on the heads of the mountains, not sleep but death, will 

the fire 
Of burnt cities and ships in that year warm you my enemies? 

The frost, the old frost, 

Like a cat with a broken-winged bird it will play with you, 
It will nip and let go; you will say it is gone, but the next 
Season it increases: O clean, clean, 
White and most clean, colorless quietness, 
Without trace, without trail, without stain in the garment, drawn 


From the poles to the girdle. ... I have known one Godhead 
To my sore hurt: I am growing to come to another: O grave 

and kindly 

Last of the lords of the earth, I pray you lead my substance 
Speedily into another shape, make me grass, Death, make me 

Make me air to wander free between the stars and the peaks; 

but cut humanity 

Out of my being, that is the wound that festers in me, 
Not captivity, not my enemies: you will heal the earth also, 
Death, in your time; but speedily Cassandra. 
You rock-fleas hopping in the clefts of Mycenx, 
Suckers of blood, you carrying the scepter farther, Persian, 


Roman and Mongol and American, and you half -gods 
Indian and Syrian and the third, emperors of peace, I have seen 

on what stage 
You sing the little tragedy; the column of the ice that was before 

on one side flanks it, 
The column of the ice to come closes it up on the other: audience 

nor author 



1 have never seen yet: I have heard the silence: it is I Cassandra, 

Eight years the bitter watchdog of these doors, 

Have watched a vision 

And now approach to my end. Eight years I have seen the 

Walk up and down this stair; and the rocks groan in the night, 

the great stones move when no man sees them. 
And I have forgotten the fine ashlar masonry of the courts of my 

father. I am not Cassandra 
But a counter of sunrises, permitted to live because I am crying 

to die; three thousand, 
Pale and red, have flowed over the towers in the wall since I was 

here watching; the deep east widens, 
The cold wind blows, the deep earth sighs, the dim gray finger 

of light crooks at the morning star. 
The palace feasted late and sleeps with its locked doors; the last 

drunkard from the alleys of the city 

Long has reeled home. Whose foot is this then, what phantom 
Toils on the stair? 
A VOICE BELOW Is someone watching above? Good sentinel I 

am only a girl beggar. 
I would sit on the stair and hold my bowl. 
CASSANDRA I here eight years have 

begged for a thing and not received it. 
You are not a sentinel? You have been asking some great boon, 

out of all reason. 

CASSANDRA No: what the meanest 

Beggar disdains to take. 
THE GIRL BEGGAR Beggars disdain nothing: what is it that 

they refuse you? 

CASSANDRA What's given 

Even to the sheep and to the bullock. 
THE GIRL Men give them salt, grass 

they find out for themselves. 
CASSANDRA Men give them 

The gift that you though a beggar have brought down from the 

north to give my mistress. 



THE GIRL You speak riddles. 

I am starving, a crust is my desire. 

CASSANDRA Your voice is young though 

winds have hoarsened it, your body appears 
Flexible under the rags: have you some hidden sickness, the 

young men will not give you silver? 


I have a sickness: I will hide it until I am cured. You are not 
a Greek woman? 


Born in Mycenae return home. And you bring gifts from Phocis: 

for my once master who's dead 
Vengeance; and for my mistress peace, for my master the King 

peace, and, by-shot of the doom's day, 
Peace for me also. But I have prayed for it. 
THE GIRL I know you, I knew 

you before you spoke to me, captive woman, 
And I unarmed will kill you with my hands if you babble 


That peace you have prayed for, I will bring it to you 
If you utter warnings. 
CASSANDRA To-day I shall have peace, you cannot 

tempt me, daughter of the Queen, Electra. 
Eight years ago I watched you and your brother going north 

to Phocis: the Queen saw knowledge of you 
Move in my eyes: I would not tell her where you were when 

she commanded me: I will not betray you 
To-day either: it is not doleful to me 
To see before I die generations of destruction enter the doors 

of Agamemnon. 
Where is your brother? 
ELECTRA Prophetess: you see all: I will tell you 


CASSANDRA He has well chosen his ambush, 
It is true JEgisthus passes under that house to-day, to hunt in 

the mountain. 

ELECTRA Now I remember 

Your name. Cassandra. 



CASSANDRA Hush: the gray has turned yellow, the 

standing beacons 
Stream up from the east; they stir there in the palace; strange, 

is it not, the dawn of one's last day's 
Like all the others? Your brother would be fortunate if to-day 

were also 
The last of his. 
ELECTRA He will endure his destinies; and Cassandra hers; 

and Electra mine. 
He has been for years like one tortured with fire: this day will 

quench it. 

CASSANDRA They are opening the gates: beg now. 
To your trade, beggar-woman. 
THE PORTER (coming out) Eh, pillar of miseries, 
You still on guard there? Like a mare in a tight stall, never lying 

down. What's this then? 
A second ragged one? This at least can bend in the middle and 

sit on a stone. 

ELECTRA Dear gentleman 

I am not used to it, my father is dead and hunger forces me to 

beg, a crust or a penny. 


This tall one's licensed in a manner. I think they'll not let two 

bundles of rag 
Camp on the stair: but if you'd come to the back door and please 

me nicely: with a little washing 
It'd do for pastime. 
ELECTRA I was reared gently: I will sit here, the King 

will see me, 

And none mishandle me. 

THE PORTER I bear no blame for you. 

I have not seen you: you came after the gates were opened. 

(He goes in.) 


O blossom of fire, bitter to men, 

Watchdog of the woeful days, 

How many sleepers 

Bathing in peace, dreaming themselves delight, 



All over the city, all over the Argolid plain, all over the dark 

(Not me, a deeper draught of peace 

And darker waters alone may wash me) 

Do you, terrible star, star without pity, 

Wolf of the east, waken to misery. 

To the wants unaccomplished, to the eating desires, 

To unanswered love, to hunger, to the hard edges 

And mold of reality, to the whips of their masters. 

They had flown away home to the happy darkness, 

They were safe until sunrise. 

(King JEgisthus, <with his retinue, comes from the great 


Even here, in the midst of the city, the early day 

Has a clear savor. (To ELECTRA) What, are you miserable, hold- 
ing the bowl out? 

We'll hear the lark to-day in the wide hills and smell the moun- 
tain. I'd share happiness with you. 

What's your best wish, girl beggar? 

ELECTRA It is covered, my lord, how 

should a beggar 

Know what to wish for beyond a crust and a dark corner and a 
little kindness? 

JEGISTHUS Why do you tremble? 


I was reared gently; my father is dead. 

>EGISTHUS Stand up: will you take 

service here in the house? What country 
Bred you gently and proved ungentle to you? 
ELECTRA I have wandered 

north from the Eurotas, my lord, 
Begging at farmsteads. 
^GISTHUS The Queen's countrywoman then, she'll 

use you kindly. She'll be coming 
In a moment, then I'll speak for you. Did you bid them yoke 

the roans into my chariot, Menalcas, 
The two from Orchomenus? 



ONE OF THE RETINUE Yesterday evening, my lord, 

I sent to the stable. 

/EGISTHUS They cost a pretty penny, we'll see how they 

carry it. She's coming: hold up your head, girl. 

(CLYTEMNESTRA, with two serving-women, comes from 
the door.) 


Good hunt, dearest. Here's a long idle day for me to look to. 

Kill early, come home early. 
There's a poor creature on the step who's been reared nicely 

and slipped into misery. I said you'd feed her, 
And maybe find her a service. Farewell, sweet one. 
CLYTEMNESTRA Where did she come from? How long have you 

been here? 
JBGISTHUS She says she has begged her way up from Sparta. 

The horses are stamping on the cobbles, good-by, good-by. 

(He goes down the stair with his huntsmen.) 

CLYTEMNESTRA Good-by, dearest. Well. Let me see your face. 

ELECTRA It is filthy to look at. I am ashamed. 

CLYTEMNESTRA (to one of her serving-women) Leucippe do 

you think this is a gayety of my lord's, he's not used to be 

so kindly to beggars? 
Let me see your face. 
LEUCIPPE She is very dirty, my lady. It is possible one of the 

house-boys . . . 
CLYTEMNESTRA I say draw that rag back, let me see your face. 

I'd have him whipped then. 
ELECTRA It was only in hope that someone would put a crust 

in the bowl, your majesty, for I am starving. I didn't think 

your majesty would see me. 
CLYTEMNESTRA Draw back the rag. 
ELECTRA I am very faint and starving but I will go down; I am 

CLYTEMNESTRA Stop her, Corinna. Fetch the porter, Leucippe. 

You will not go so easily. (ELECTRA sinks down on the steps 

and lies prone, her head covered.) I am aging out of queen- 
ship indeed, when even the beggars refuse my bidding. 



(LEUCIPPE comes in 'with the porter.) You have a dirty stair, 

porter. How long has this been here? 
THE PORTER O my lady it has crept up since I opened the doors, 

it was not here when I opened the doors. 
CLYTEMNESTRA Lift it up and uncover its face. What is that 

cry in the city? Stop: silent: I heard a cry . . . 
Prophetess, your nostrils move like a dog's, what is that shout- 
ing? . . . 

I have grown weak, I am exhausted, things frighten me ... 
Tell her to be gone, Leucippe, I don't wish to see her, I don't 

wish to see her. 

(ELECTRA rises.) 

ELECTRA Ah, Queen, I will show you my face. 
CLYTEMNESTRA No ... no ... be gone. 
ELECTRA (uncovering her face) 
Mother: I have come home: I am humbled. This house keeps 

a dark welcome 
For those coming home out of far countries. 

CLYTEMNESTRA I Won't look: how 

could I know anyone? I am old and shaking. 
He said, Over the wall beyond nature 
Lightning, and the laughter of the Gods. I did not cross it, 

I will not kill what I gave life to. 
Whoever you are, go, go, let me grow downward to the grave 

quietly now. 

ELECTRA I cannot 

Go: I have no other refuge. Mother! Will you not kiss me, will 

you not take me into the house, 
Your child once, long a wanderer? Electra my name. I have 

begged my way from Phocis, my brother is dead there, 
Who used to care for me. 
CLYTEMNESTRA Who is dead, who? 

ELECTRA My brother Orestes, 

Killed in a court quarrel 
CLYTEMNESTRA (weeping) Oh, you lie! The widening blue 

blue eyes, 
The little voice of the child . . . Liar. 



ELECTRA It is tTUC. I have WCpt 

long, on every mountain. You, mother, 
Have only begun weeping. Far off, in a far country, no fit 

burial . . . 

CLYTEMNESTRA And do you bringing 
Bitterness ... or lies . . . look for a welcome? I have only 

loved two: 
The priest killed my daughter for a lamb on a stone and now 

you say the boy too . . . dead, dead? 
The world's full of it, a shoreless lake of lies and floating rumors 

. . . pack up your wares, peddler, 
Too false for a queen. Why, no, if I believed you . . . Beast, 

treacherous beast, that shouting comes nearer, 
What's in the city? 
ELECTRA I am a stranger, I know nothing of the city, 

I know only 

My mother hates me, and Orestes my brother 
Died pitifully, far off. 
CLYTEMNESTRA Too many things, too many things call 

me, what shall I do? Electra, 
Electra help me. This comes of living softly, I had a lion's 

ELECTRA Me for help? I am utterly helpless, I had help in my 

brother and he is dead in Phocis. 
Give me refuge: but each of us two must weep for herself, one 

sorrow. An end of the world were on us 

What would it matter to us weeping? Do you remember him, 
Mother, mother? 
CLYTEMNESTRA I have dared too much: never dare anything, 

Electra, the ache is afterward, 
At the hour it hurts nothing. Prophetess, you lied. 
You said he would come with vengeance on me: but now he is 

dead, this girl says: and because he was lovely, blue-eyed, 
And born in a most unhappy house I will believe it. But the 

world's fogged with the breath of liars, 
And if she has laid a net for me . . . 



I'll call up the old lioness lives yet in my body, I have dared, 
I have dared, and tooth and talon 

Carve a way through. Lie to me? 

ELECTRA Have I endured for months, 

with feet bleeding, among the mountains, 

Between the great gulfs alone and starving, to bring you a lie 
now? I know the worst of you, I looked for the worst, 

Mother, mother, and have expected nothing but to die of this 
home-coming: but Orestes 

Has entered the cave before; he is gathered up in a lonely moun- 
tain quietness, he is guarded from angers 

In the tough cloud that spears fall back from. 

CLYTEMNESTRA Was he still beau- 

tiful? The brown mothers down in the city 

Keep their brats about them; what it is to live high! Oh! 

Tell them down there, tell them in Tiryns, 

Tell them in Sparta, 

That water drips through the Queen's fingers and trickles down 
her wrists, for the boy, for the boy 

Born of her body, whom she, fool, fool, fool, 

Drove out of the world. Electra, 

Make peace with me. 

Oh, Oh, Oh! 

I have labored violently all the days of my life for nothing-- 
nothingworse than anything this death 

Was a thing I wished. See how they make fools of us. 

Amusement for them, to watch us labor after the thing that will 
tear us in pieces. . . . Well, strength's good. 

I am the Queen; I will gather up my fragments 

And not go mad now. 

ELECTRA Mother, what are the men 

With spears gathering at the stair's foot? Not of Mycenae by 
their armor, have you mercenaries 

Wanting pay? Do they serve . . . ^Egisthus? 

CLYTEMNESTRA What men? I seem 

not to know . . . 

Who has laid a net for me, what fool 

For me, me? Porter, by me. 


Leucippe, my guards; into the house, rouse them. I am sorry 

for him, 

I am best in storm. You, Electra? 
The death you'll die, my daughter. Guards, out! Was it a lie? 

No matter, no matter, no matter, 
Here's peace. Spears, out, out! They bungled the job making 

me a woman. Here's youth come back to me, 
And all the days of gladness. 

LEUCIPPE (running back from the door) O, Queen, stran- 
gers ... 
ORESTES (a sword in his hand, 'with spearmen following, comes 

from the door) Where is that woman 
The Gods utterly hate? 
ELECTRA Brother: let her not speak, kill quickly. 

Is the other one safe now? 
ORESTES That dog 

Fell under his chariot, we made sure of him between the wheels 

and the hooves, squealing. Now for this one. 


Wait. I was weeping, Electra will tell you, my hands are wet 

For your blue eyes that death had closed she said away up in 

Phocis. I die now, justly or not 
Is out of the story, before I die I'd tell you wait, child, wait. 

Did I quiver 
Or pale at the blade? I say, caught in a net, netted in by my 

enemies, my husband murdered, 
Myself to die, I am joyful knowing she lied, you live, the only 


Under all the spread and arch of daylight 
That I love, lives. 
ELECTRA The great fangs drawn fear craftiness now, 

kill quickly. 

CLYTEMNESTRA As for her, the wife of a shepherd 
Suckled her, but you 
These very breasts nourished: rather one of your northern 

spearmen do what's needful; not you 



Draw blood where you drew milk. The Gods endure much, but 

beware them. 

ORESTES This, a God in his temple 

Openly commanded. 
CLYTEMNESTRA Ah, child, child, who has mistaught you and 

who has betrayed you? What voice had the God? 
How was it different from a man's and did you see him? Who 

sent the priest presents? They fool us, 
And the Gods let them. No doubt also the envious King of 

Phocis has lent you counsel as he lent you 
Men: let one of them do it. Life's not jewel enough 
That I should plead for it: this much I pray, for your sake, not 

with your hand, not with your hand, or the memory 
Will so mother you, so glue to you, so embracing you, 
Not the deep sea's green day, no cleft of a rock in the bed of 

the deep sea, no ocean of darkness 
Outside the stars, will hide nor wash you. What is it to me that 

I have rejoiced knowing you alive, 

child, O precious to me, O alone loved, if now dying by my 

manner of death 

1 make nightmare the heir, nightmare, horror, in all I have of 

And you haunted forever, never to sleep dreamless again, never 

to see blue cloth 
But the red runs over it; fugitive of dreams, madman at length, 

the memory of a scream following you houndlike, 
Inherit Mycenae? Child, for this has not been done before, there 

is no old fable, no whisper 
Out of the foundation, among the people that were before our 

people, no echo has ever 
Moved among these most ancient stones, the monsters here, nor 

stirred under any mountain, nor fluttered 
Under any sky, of a man slaying his mother. Sons have killed 

ORESTES And a woman her son's father 


O many times: and these old stones have seen horrors: a house 
of madness and blood 



I married into: and worse was done on this rock among the older 

people before: but not this, 
Not the son his mother; this the silent ones, 
The old hard ones, the great bearers of burden have not seen yet, 
Nor shall, to-day nor yet to-morrow, nor ever in the world. 

Let her do it, it is not unnatural, 
The daughter the mother; the little liar there, 
Electra do it. Lend her the blade. 
ELECTRA Brother though the great house 

is silent hark the city, 
That buzzes like the hive one has dipped a wand in. End this. 

Then look to our safety. 
ORESTES Dip in my sword 

Into my fountain? Did I truly, little and helpless, 
Lie in the arms, feed on the breast there? 
ELECTRA Another, a greater, lay 

in them, another kissed the breast there, 
You forget easily, the breaker of Asia, the over-shadower, the 

great memory, under whose greatness 
We have hung like hawks under a storm, from the beginning, 

and he when this poison destroyed him 
Was given no room to plead in. 

ORESTES Dip my wand into my fountain? 

CLYTEMNESTRA Men do not kill the meanest 
Without defence heard 
ELECTRA Him Agamemnon? 

CLYTEMNESTRA But you, O my son, my son, 

Moulded in me, made of me, made of my flesh, built with my 

blood, fed with my milk, my child 
I here, I and no other, labored to bear, groaning 
ELECTRA This that 

makes beastlike lamentation 
Hunted us to slay us, we starving in the thicket above the stream 

three days and nights watched always 
Her hunters with spears beating the field: prophetess was it for 

love that she looked after us? 
CASSANDRA That love 



The King had tasted; that was her love. 

ELECTRA And mourning for our 

father on the mountain we judged her; 

And the God condemned her, what more, what more? Strike. 

ORESTES If they'd give me time, the pack there how can I 

And all the whelps of Mycenae yelling at the stair-foot? De- 
cision: a thing to be decided: 

The arm's lame, dip in, dip in? Shut your mouths, rabble. 

CLYTEMNESTRA There is one thing no man can do. 

ORESTES What, enter 

his fountain? 


O coward! 

ORESTES I will be passive, I'm blunted. She's not this fellow's 


ELECTRA O spearman, spearman, do it! 
One stroke: it is just. 

THE SPEARMAN As f or me, my lord . . . 

CLYTEMNESTRA (calling loudly) Help, help, men 

of Mycenae, to your Queen. Break them. 
Rush the stair, there are only ten hold it. Up, up, kill. 
ORESTES I will kill. 

CLYTEMNESTRA (falling on her knees) Child, 
Spare me, let me live! Child! Ai! . . . 
ELECTRA You have done well. 

ORESTES I have done ... I have done . . . 
Who ever saw such a flow . . . was I made out of this, I'm not 

red, am I? 
See, father? 
It was someone else did it but I told him to. Drink, drink, dog. 

Drink dog. 
He reaches up a tongue between the stones, lapping it. So thirsty 

old dog, uh? 
Rich and sticky. 
CLYTEMNESTRA (raising hersetf a little) Sleep ... for me ... 




Not you . . . any more . . . Orestes ... I shall be there. You 
will beg death . . . vainly as I have begged . . . life. Ah 
. . . beast that I unkennelled! (She dies.) 

ORESTES (crouching by her) Ooh . . . Ooh . . . 


The face is lean and terrible. Orestes! 

They are fighting on the stair. Man yourself. Come. Pick up the 

Let her be, two of ours are down, they yield on the stair. Stand 

up, speak or fight, speak to the people 
Or we go where she is. 
ORESTES There's a red and sticky sky that you 

can touch here. 

And though it's unpleasant we are at peace. 
ELECTRA (catching up the sword) Agamemnon failed 

here. Not in me. Hear, Mycenaeans. 
I am Agamemnon's daughter, we have avenged him, the crime's 

paid utterly. 
You have not forgotten the great King what, in eight years? 

I am Electra, I am his daughter. 
My brother is Orestes. My brother is your King and has killed 

his murderers. The dog ^Egisthus is dead, 
And the Queen is dead: the city is at peace. 
ORESTES (standing up) Must I dip my wand 

into my fountain, give it to me. 
The male plaything. (He catches ELECTRA'S army snatching at 

the sword.) 

ELECTRA For what? Be quiet, they have heard me. 

ORESTES You said I must do it, I will do it. 

ELECTRA It is done! 

Brother, brother? (ORESTES takes the sword from her by force.) 

O Mycense 

With this sword he did justice, he let it fall, he has retaken it, 
He is your King. 
ORESTES Whom must I pierce, the girl that plotted with 

me in the mountain? There was someone to kill . . . 
Sweet Electra? 
ELECTRA It is done, it is finished! 



CASSANDRA The nearest, the most 

loved, her, truly. Strike! Electra, 
My father has wanted vengeance longer. 
THE PEOPLE BELOW Orestes, Orestes! 

ELECTRA (pointing to CASSANDRA) Her 

your mother she killed him. 
ORESTES (turning and striking) How tall you have grown, 

CASSANDRA (falling) I ... waited long for it ... 


I have killed my mother and my mother two mothers see, 

there they lie I have gone home twice. You put it in 
And the flesh yields to it ... (He goes down the stair.) Now, 

to find her again 
All through the forest . . . 
ELECTRA Let him pass, Mycenaeans. Avoid his 

sword. Let him pass, pass. The madness of the house 
Perches on him. 

A LEADER OF THE MYCEN^ANS Daughter of Agamemnon, 
You with constancy and force 
In the issueless thing have found an issue. Now it is for us the 

kingless city 

To find a ruler. Rest in the house. As for the young man, 
Though he has done justice, and no hand in Mycenae is raised 

against him, for him there is no issue. 
We let him go on; and if he does not slay himself with the red 

sword he will die in the mountain. 
With us be peace. Rest in the house, daughter of Agamemnon. 

The old madness, with your brother, 
Go out of our gates. 
ELECTRA A house to rest in! ... Gather up the 

dead: I will go in; I have learned strength. 

They carried the dead down the great stair; the slaves with pails 

of water and sand scoured the dark stains. 
The people meeting in another place to settle the troubled city 

the stair was left vacant, 



The porch untrampled, and about twilight one of the great 

stones: the world is younger than we are, 
Yet now drawing to an end, now that the seasons falter. Then 

another, that had been spared the blood-bath: 
What way do they falter? There fell warm rain, the first an- 
swered, in the midst of summer. A little afterward 
Cold rain came down; and sand was rubbed over me as when the 

winds blow. This in the midst of summer. 
I did not feel it, said the second sleepily. And a third: The 

noisy and very mobile creatures 
Will be quieted long before the world's end. What creatures? 

The active ones, that have two ends let downward, 
A mongrel race, mixed of soft stone with fugitive water. The 

night deepened, the dull old stones 
Droned at each other, the summer stars wheeled over above them. 

Before dawn the son of Agamemnon 
Came to the stair-foot in the darkness. 
ORESTES O stones of the house: 

I entreat hardness: I did not live with you 
Long enough in my youth. ... I will go up to where I killed 

her. . . . We must face things down, mother, 
Or they'd devour us. ... Nobody? . . . Even the stones have 

been scrubbed. A keen housekeeper, sweet Electra. 
... It would be childish to forget it; the woman has certainly 

been killed, and I think it was I 
Her son did it. Something not done before in the world. Here is 

the penalty: 

You gather up all your forces to the act, and afterward 
Silence, no voice, no ghost, vacancy, but all's not expended. 

Those powers want bitter action. No object. 
Deeds are too easy. Our victims are too fragile, they ought to have 

thousands of lives, you strike out once only 
The sky breaks like a bubble. . . . No, wife of ^Egisthus, why 

should I mask it? mother, my mother, 
The one soft fiber that went mad yesterday's 
Burnt out of me now, there is nothing you could touch if you 

should come; but you have no power, you dead 



Are a weak people. This is the very spot: I was here, she here: 

and I walk over it not trembling, 
Over the scrubbed stones to the door. (He knocks 'with the 

sword-hilt.) They sleep well. But my sister having all her 


Better than any. (He knocks again.) 
THE PORTER (through the door) Who is there? 
ORESTES The owner of the house. Orestes. 
THE PORTER Go away, drunkard. 
ORESTES Shall I tell my servants to break in the door and whip 

the porter? 
THE PORTER Oh, Oh! You men from Phocis, stand by me while 

I speak to the door. (Having opened the door, holding a 

torch.) Is it you truly, my lord? We thought, we thought 

... we pray you to enter the house, my lord Orestes. 
ORESTES You are to waken my sister. 
I'll speak with her here. 
ELECTRA (at the door) Oh! You are safe, you are well! Did you 

think I could be sleeping? But it is true, 
I have slept soundly. Come, come. 

ORESTES A fellow in the forest 

Told me you'd had the stone scrubbed ... I mean, that you'd 

entered the house, received as Agamemnon's chiitrlutT 
In the honor of the city. So I free to go traveling have come with 

what's the word, Electra? farewell. 
Have come to bid you farewell. 

ELECTRA It means you are going some- 

where? Come into the house, Orestes, tell me ... 

The cape's rounded. I have not shipwrecked. 
ELECTRA Around the rock 

we have passed safely is the hall of this house, 
The throne in the hall, the shining lordship of Mycenae. 

the open world, the sea and its wonders. 
You thought the oars raked the headland in the great storm 

what, for Mycenae? 
ELECTRA Not meanest of the Greek cities: 


Whose king captained the world into Asia. Have you suddenly 

become ... a God, brother, to over-vault 
Agamemnon's royalty? O come in, come in. I am cold, cold. 

I pray you. 

ORESTES Fetch a cloak, porter. 

If I have outgrown the city a littleI have earned it. Did you 

notice, Electra, she caught at the sword 
As the point entered: the palm of her right hand was slashed to 

the bone before the mercy of the point 
Slept in her breast: the laid-open palm it was that undermined 

me . . . Oh, the cloak. It's a blond night, 
Well walk on the stones: no chill, the stars are mellow. If I dare 

Yesterday . . . because I have conquered, the soft fiber's burnt 


ELECTRA You have conquered: possess: enter the house, 
Take up the royalty. 
ORESTES You were in my vision to-night in the 

forest, Electra, I thought I embraced you 
More than brotherwise . . . possessed, you call it ... entered 

the fountain 
ELECTRA Oh, hush. Therefore you would not kill her! 


I killed. It is foolish to darken things with words. I was here, she 
there, screaming. Who if not I? 


The hidden reason: the bitter kernel of your mind that has made 
you mad: I that learned strength 

Yesterday, I have no fear. 

ORESTES Fear? The city is friendly and took 

you home with honor, they'll pay 

Phocis his wage, you will be quiet. 

ELECTRA Are you resolved to under- 

stand nothing, Orestes? 

/ am not Agamemnon, only his daughter. You are Agamemnon. 
Beggars and the sons of beggars 

May wander at will over the world, but Agamemnon has his 
honor and high Mycenae 

Is not to be cast. 


ORESTES Mycenae for a ship: who will buy kingdom 

And sell me a ship with oars? 

ELECTRA Dear: listen. Come to the parapet 

where it hangs over the night: 
The ears at the door hinder me. Now, let the arrow-eyed stars 

hear, the night, not men, as for the Gods 
No one can know them, whether they be angry or pleased, tall 

and terrible, standing apart, 
When they make signs out of the darkness. ... I cannot tell you. 

. . . You will stay here, brother? 
ORESTES I'll go 

To the edge and over it. Sweet sister, if you've got a message for 

them, the dark ones? 

ELECTRA You do not mean 

Death; but a wandering; what does it matter what you mean? 

I know two ways and one will quiet you. 
You shall choose either. 
ORESTES But I am quiet. It is more regular than 

a sleeping child's: be untroubled, 
Yours burns, it is you trembling. 
ELECTRA Should I not tremble? It is only 

a little to offer, 
But all that I have. 

ELECTRA It is accomplished: my father is 

avenged: the fates and the body of Electra 
Are nothing. But for Agamemnon to rule in Mycenae: that is not 

nothing. O my brother 
You are Agamemnon: rule: take all you will: nothing is denied 

you. The Gods have redressed evil 
And clamped the balance. 

ORESTES No doubt they have done what they desired. 

ELECTRA And yours, 

yours? I will not suffer her 

Jusdy punished to dog you over the end of the world. Your de- 
sire? Speak it openly, Orestes. 
She is to be conquered: if her ghost were present on the stones 

let it hear you. I will make war on her 
With my life, or with my body. 


ORESTES What strange martyrdom, Elec- 

tra, what madness for sacrifice 
Makes your eyes burn like two fires on a watch-tower, though 

the night darkens? 

ELECTRA What you want you shall have: 

And rule in Mycenae. Nothing, nothing is denied you. If I knew 

which of the two choices 
Would quiet you, I would do and not speak, not ask you. Tell 

me, tell me. Must I bear all the burden, 
I weaker, and a woman? You and I were two hawks quartering 

the field for living flesh Orestes 
Under the storm of the memory 
Of Agamemnon: we struck: we tore the prey, that dog and that 

woman. Suddenly since yesterday 
You have shot up over me and left me, 
You are Agamemnon, you are the storm of the living presence, 

the very King, and I, lost wings 
Under the storm, would die for you. . , . You do not speak yet? 

. . . Mine to say it all? . . . You know me a maiden, Orestes, 
You have always been with me, no man has even touched my 

cheek. It is not easy for one unmarried 
And chaste, to name both choices. The first is easy. That terrible 

dream in the forest: if fear of desire 

Drives you away: it is easy for me not to be. I never have known 
Sweetness in life: all my young days were given 

ORESTES I thought tO 

be silent was better, 

And understand you: afterwards I'll speak. 
ELECTRA to the noise of 

blood crying for blood, a crime to be punished, 
A house to be emptied: these things are done: and now I am 

lonely, and what becomes of me is not important. 
There's water, and there are points and edges, pain's only a 

moment: I'd do it and not speak, but nobody knows 
Whether it would give you peace or madden you again, I'd not 

be leagued with that bad woman against you, 
And these great walls sit by the crater, terrible desires blow 

through them. O brother I'll never blame you, 



I share the motherhood and the fatherhood, I can conceive the 

madness, if you desire too near 
The fountain: tell me: I also love you: not that way, but enough 

to suffer. What needs to be done 
To make peace for you, tell me. I shall so gladly die to make it 

for you: or so gladly yield you 
What you know is maiden. You are the King; have all your will: 

only remain in steep Mycenae, 
In the honor of our father. Not yet: do not speak yet. You have 

said it is not 
Remorse drives you away: monsters require monsters, to have 

let her live a moment longer 
Would have been the crime: therefore it cannot be but desire 

drives you: or the fear of desire: dearest, 
It is known horror unlocks the heart, a shower of things hidden: 

if that which happened yesterday unmasked 
A beautiful brother's love and showed more awful eyes in it: all 

that our Gods require is courage. 
Let me see the face, let the eyes pierce me. What, dearest? Here 

in the stiff cloth of the sacred darkness 
Fold over fold hidden, above the sleeping city, 
By the great stones of the door, under the little golden falcons 

that swarm before dawn up yonder, 
In the silence . . . must I dare to woo you, 
I whom man never wooed? to let my hand glide under the cloak. 

. . . O you will stay! these arms 
Making so soft and white a bond around you ... I also begin 

to love that way, Orestes, 
Feeling the hot hard flesh move under the loose cloth, shudder 

against me. . . . Ah, your mouth, Ah, 
The burning kiss me 
ORESTES We shall never ascend this mountain. 

So it might come true: we have to be tough against them, 
Our dreams and visions, or they true themselves into flesh. It is 

sweet: I faint for it: the old stones here 
Have seen more and not moved. A custom of the house. To 

accept you, little Electra, and go my journey 


To-mgrrow: you'd call cheating. Therefore: we shall not go up 

this mountain dearest, dearest, 
To-night nor ever. It's Clytemnestra in you. But the dead are a 

weak tribe. If I had Agamemnon's 
We'd live happily sister and lord it in Mycenae be a king like 

the others royalty and incest 
Run both in the stream of the blood. Who scrubbed the stones 


ELECTRA Slaves. O fire burn me! Enter and lay waste, 
Deflower, trample, break down, pillage the little city, 
Make what breach you will, with flesh or a spear, give it to the 

spoiler. See, as I tear the garment. 
What if I called it cheating? Be cruel and treacherous: I'll run 

my chances 

On the bitter mercies of to-morrow. 
ORESTES Bitter they would be. No. 

ELECTRA It's clear 

that for this reason 
You'd sneak out of Mycenae and be lost outward. Taste first, bite 

the apple, once dared and tried 

Desire will be not terrible. It's doglike to run off whining. Re- 
member it was I that urged 
Yesterday's triumph. You: life was enough: let them live. I drove 

on, burning; your mind, reluctant metal, 
I dipped it in fire and forged it sharp, day after day I beat and 

burned against you, and forged 
A sword: I the arm. Are you sorry it's done? Now again with 

hammer and burning heat I beat against you, 
You will not be sorry. We two of all the world, we alone, 
Are fit for each other, we have so wrought . . . O eyes scorning 

the world, storm-feathered hawk my hands 
Caught out of the air and made you a king over this rock, O axe 

with the gold helve, O star 
Alone over the storm, beacon to men over blown seas, you will 

not flee fate, you will take 
What the Gods give. What is a man not ruling? An ant in the hill: 

ruler or slave the choice is, 


a runaway slave, your pilgrim portion, buffeted over the 

borders of the lands, publicly 
Whipped in the cities. But you, you will bind the north-star on 

your forehead, you will stand up in Mycenae 
Stone, and a king. 
ORESTES I am stone enough not to be changed by 

words, nor by the sweet and burning flame of you, 
Beautiful Electra. 
ELECTRA Well then: we've wasted our night. See, there's 

the morning star 
I might have draggled into a metaphor of you. A fool: a boy: 

no king. 

ORESTES It would have been better 

To have parted kindlier, for it is likely 
We shall have no future meeting. 
ELECTRA You will let this crime (the 

God commanded) that dirtied the old stones here 
Make division forever? 
ORESTES Not the crime, the wakening. That deed is 

past, it is finished, things past 

Make no division afterward, they have no power, they have be- 
come nothing at all: this much 
I have learned at a crime's knees. 
ELECTRA Yet we are divided. 

ORESTES Because I 

have suddenly awakened, I will not waste inward 
Upon humanity, having found a fairer object. 
ELECTRA Some nymph of 

the field? I knew this coldness 

Had a sick root: a girl in the north told me about the hill-shep- 
herds who living in solitude 
Turn beast with the ewes, their oreads baa to them through the 

matted fleece and they run mad, what madness 
Met you in the night and sticks to you? 
ORESTES I left the madness of the 

house, to-night in the dark, with you it walks yet. 
How shall I tell you what I have learned? Your mind is like a 

hawk's or like a lion's, this knowledge 



Is out of the order of your mind, a stranger language. To wild 

beasts and the blood of kings 
A verse blind in the book. 

ELECTRA At least my eyes can see dawn gray- 

ing: tell and not mock me, our moment 
Dies in a moment. 

ORESTES Here is the last labor 

To spend on humanity. I saw a vision of us move in the dark: 

all that we did or dreamed of 
Regarded each other, the man pursued the woman, the woman 

clung to the man, warriors and kings 
Strained at each other in the darkness, all loved or fought inward, 

each one of the lost people 
Sought the eyes of another that another should praise him; sought 

never his own but another's; the net of desire 
Had every nerve drawn to the center, so that they writhed like a 

full draught of fishes, all matted 
In the one mesh; when they look backward they see only a man 

standing at the beginning, 
Or forward, a man at the end; or if upward, men in the shining 

bitter sky striding and feasting, 
Whom you call Gods . . . 
It is all turned inward, all your desires incestuous, the woman the 

serpent, the man the rose-red cavern, 
Both human, worship forever . . . 

ELECTRA You have dreamed wretchedly. 


seen the dreams of the people and not dreamed them. 
As for me, I have slain my mother. 
ELECTRA No more? 

ORESTES And the gate's open, 

the gray boils over the mountain, I have greater 
Kindred than dwell under a roof. Didn't I say this would be dark 

to you? I have cut the meshes 
And fly like a freed falcon. To-night, lying on the hillside, sick 

with those visions, I remembered 
The knife in the stalk of my humanity; I drew and it broke; 

I entered the life of the brown forest 


And the great life of the ancient peaks, the patience of stone, 

I felt the changes in the veins 
In the throat of the mountain, a grain in many centuries, we have 

our own time, not yours; and I was the stream 
Draining the mountain wood; and I the stag drinking; and I was 

the stars, 
Boiling with light, wandering alone, each one the lord of his own 

summit; and I was the darkness 
Outside the stars, I included them, they were a part of me. I was 

mankind also, a moving lichen 
On the cheek of the round stone . . . they have not made words 

for it, to go behind things, beyond hours and ages, 
And be all things in all time, in their returns and passages, in the 

motionless and timeless center, 
In the white of the fire . . . how can I express the excellence 

I have found, that has no color but clearness; 
No honey but ecstasy; nothing wrought nor remembered; no 

undertone nor silver second murmur 
That rings in love's voice, I and my loved are one; no desire but 

fulfilled; no passion but peace, 
The pure flame and the white, fierier than any passion; no time 

but spheral eternity: Electra, 
Was that your name before this life dawned 
ELECTRA Here is mere death. 

Death like a triumph I'd have paid to keep you 
A king in high Mycenae: but here is shameful death, to die because 

I have lost you. They'll say 
Having done justice Agamemnorfs son ran mad and was lost in 

the mountain; but Agamemnon's daughter 
Hanged herself from a beam of the house: O bountiful hands of 

justice! This horror draws upon me 
Like stone walking. 
ORESTES What fills men's mouths is nothing; and your 

threat is nothing; I have fallen in love outward. 
If I believed you it is I that am like stone walking. 
ELECTRA I can endure 

even to hate you, 



But that's no matter. Strength's good. You are lost. I here remem- 
ber the honor of the house, and Agamemnon's. 

She turned and entered the ancient house. Orestes walked in the 

clear dawn; men say that a serpent 
Killed him in high Arcadia. But young or old, few years or many, 

signified less than nothing 
To him who had climbed the tower beyond time, consciously, 

and cast humanity, entered the earlier fountain. 



The dog barked; then the woman stood in the doorway, and hear- 
ing iron strike stone down the steep road 
Covered her head with a black shawl and entered the light rain; 

she stood at the turn of the road. 
A nobly formed woman; erect and strong as a new tower; the 

features stolid and dark 
But sculptured into a strong grace; straight nose with a high bridge, 

firm and wide eyes, full chin, 
Red lips; she was only a fourth part Indian; a Scottish sailor had 

planted her in young native earth, 
Spanish and Indian, twenty-one years before. He had named her 

California when she was born; 
That was her name; and had gone north. 

She heard the hooves and 

wheels come nearer, up the steep road. 
The buckskin mare, leaning against the breastpiece, plodded into 

sight round the wet bank. 
The pale face of the driver followed; the burnt-out eyes; they had 

fortune in them. He sat twisted 
On the seat of the old buggy, leading a second horse by a long 

halter, a roan, a big one, 
That stepped daintily; by the swell of the neck, a stallion. "What 

have you got, Johnny?" "Maskerel's stallion. 
Mine now. I won him last night, I had very good luck." He was 

quite drunk, "They bring their mares up here now. 
I keep this fellow. I got money besides, but I'll not show you." 

"Did you buy something, Johnny, 
For our Christine? Christmas comes in two days, Johnny." "By 

God, forgot," he answered laughing. 
"Don't tell Christine it's Christmas; after while I get her something, 

maybe." But California: 

"I shared your luck when you lost: you lost me once, Johnny, re- 
member? Tom Dell had me two nights 



Here in the house: other times we've gone hungry: now that 

you've won, Christine will have her Christmas. 
We share your luck, Johnny. You give me money, I go down to 

Monterey to-morrow, 
Buy presents for Christine, come back in the evening. Next day 

Christmas." "You have wet ride," he answered 
Giggling. "Here money. Five dollar; ten; twelve dollar. You 

buy two bottles of rye whiskey for Johnny." 
U A11 right. I go to-morrow." 

He was an outcast Hollander; not 

old, but shriveled with bad living. 
The child Christine inherited from his race blue eyes, from his 

life a wizened forehead; she watched 
From the house-door her father lurch out of the buggy and lead 

with due respect the stallion 
To the new corral, the strong one; leaving the wearily breathing 

buckskin mare to his wife to unharness. 

Storm in the night; the rain on the thin shakes of the roof like 

the ocean on rock streamed battering; once thunder 
Walked down the narrow canyon into Carmel valley and wore 

away westward; Christine was wakeful 
With fears and wonders; her father lay too deep for storm to 

touch him. 

Dawn comes late in the year's dark, 
Later into the crack of a canyon under redwoods; and California 

slipped from bed 
An hour before it; the buckskin would be tired; there was a little 

barley, and why should Johnny 
Feed all the barley to his stallion? That is what he would do. She 

tip-toed out of the room. 
Leaving her clothes, he'd waken if she waited to put them on, 

and passed from the door of the house 
Into the dark of the rain; the big black drops were cold through 

the thin shift, but the wet earth 
Pleasant under her naked feet. There was a pleasant smell in the 

stable; and moving softly, 



Touching things gently with the supple bend of the unclothed 

body, was pleasant. She found a box, 
Filled it with sweet dry barley and took it down to the old 

corral. The little mare sighed deeply 
At the rail in the wet darkness; and California returning between 

two redwoods up to the house 
Heard the happy jaws grinding the grain. Johnny could mind 

the pigs and chickens. Christine called to her 
When she entered the house, but slept again under her hand. She 

laid the wet night-dress on a chair-back 
And stole into the bedroom to get her clothes. A plank creaked, 

and he wakened. She stood motionless 
Hearing him stir in the bed. When he was quiet she stooped after 

her shoes, and he said softly, 
"What are you doing? Come back to bed." "It's late, I'm going 

to Monterey, I must hitch up." 
"You come to bed first. I been away three days. I give you money, 

I take back the money 
And what you do in town then?" she sighed sharply and came to 

the bed. 

He reaching his hands from it 
Felt the cool curve and firmness of her flank, and half rising 

caught her by the long wet hair. 
She endured, and to hasten the act she feigned desire; she had not 

for long, except in dream, felt it. 
Yesterday's drunkenness made him sluggish and exacting; she 

saw, turning her head sadly, 
The windows were bright gray with dawn; he embraced her still, 

stopping to talk about the stallion. 
At length she was permitted to put on her clothes. Clear daylight 

over the steep hills; 
Gray-shining cloud over the tops of the redwoods; the winter 

stream sang loud; the wheels of the buggy 
Slipped m deep slime, ground on washed stones at the road-edge. 

Down the hill the wrinkled river smothered the ford. 
You must keep to the bed of stones: she knew the way by willow 

and alder: the buckskin halted mid-stream, 



Shuddering, the water her own color washing up to the traces; 
but California, drawing up 

Her feet out of the whirl onto the seat of the buggy swung the 
whip over the yellow water 

And drove to the road. 

All morning the clouds were racing north- 
ward like a river. At noon they thickened. 

When California faced the southwind home from Monterey it 
was heavy with level rainfall. 

She looked seaward from the foot of the valley; red rays cried 
sunset from a trumpet of streaming 

Cloud over Lobos, the southwest Occident of the solstice. Twi- 
light came soon, but the tired mare 

Feared the road more than the whip. Mile after mile of slow 
gray twilight. 

Then, quite suddenly, darkness. 

"Christine will be asleep. It is Christmas Eve. The ford. That hour 
of daylight wasted this morning!" 

She could see nothing; she let the reins lie on the dashboard and 
knew at length by the cramp of the wheels 

And the pitch down, they had reached it. Noise of wheels on 
stones, plashing of hooves in water; a world 

Of sounds; no sight; the gentle thunder of water; the mare snort- 
ing, dipping her head, one knew, 

To look for footing, in the blackness, under the stream. The 
hushing and creaking of the sea-wind 

In the passion of invisible willows. 

The mare stood still; the woman 
shouted to her; spared whip, 

For a false leap would lose the track of the ford. She stood. 
"The baby's things," thought California, 

"Under the seat: the water will come over the floor"; and rising 
in the midst of the water 

She tilted the seat; fetched up the doll, the painted wooden chick- 
ens, the woolly bear, the book 

Of many pictures, the box of sweets: she brought them all from 
under the seat and stored them, trembling, 



Under her clothes, about the breasts, under the arms; the corners 

of the cardboard boxes 
Cut into the soft flesh; but with a piece of rope for a girdle and 

wound about the shoulders 
All was made fast. The mare stood still as if asleep in the midst 

of the water. Then California 
Reached out a hand over the stream and fingered her rump; the 

solid wet convexity of it 
Shook like the beat of a great heart. "What are you waiting 

for?" But the feel of the animal surface 
Had wakened a dream, obscured real danger with a dream of 

danger. "What for? For the water-stallion 
To break out of the stream, that is what the rump strains for, 

him to come up flinging foam sidewise, 
Fore-hooves in air, crush me and the rig and curl over his 

woman." She flung out with the whip then, 
The mare plunged forward. The buggy drifted sidelong: was 

she off ground? Swimming? No: by the splashes. 
The driver, a mere prehensile instinct, clung to the side-irons 

of the seat and felt the force 

But not the coldness of the water, curling over her knees, break- 
ing up to the waist 
Over her body. They'd turned. The mare had turned up stream 

and was wallowing back into shoal water. 
Then California dropped her forehead to her knees, having seen 

nothing, feeling a danger, 
And felt the brute weight of a branch of alder, the pendulous 

light leaves brush her bent neck 
Like a child's fingers. The mare burst out of water and stopped 

on the slope to the ford. The woman climbed down 
Between the wheels and went to her head. "Poor Dora," she 

called her by her name, "there, Dora. Quietly," 
And led her around, there was room to turn on the margin, the 

head to the gentle thunder of the water. 
She crawled on hands and knees, felt for the ruts, and shifted 

the wheels into them. "You can see, Dora. 
I can't. But this time you'll go through it." She climbed into the 

seat and shouted angrily. The mare 



Stopped, her two forefeet in the water. She touched with the 

whip. The mare plodded ahead and halted. 
Then California thought of prayer: "Dear little Jesus, 
Dear baby Jesus born to-night, your head was shining 
Like silver candles. I've got a baby too, only a girl. You had light 

wherever you walked. 
Dear baby Jesus give me light." Light streamed: rose, gold, rich 

purple, hiding the ford like a curtain. 
The gentle thunder of water was a noise of wing-feathers, the 

fans of paradise lifting softly. 
The child afloat on radiance had a baby face, but the angels had 

birds' heads, hawks' heads, 
Bending over the baby, weaving a web of wings about him. He 

held in the small fat hand 
A little snake with golden eyes, and California could see clearly 

on the under radiance 
The mare's pricked ears, a sharp black fork against the shining 

light-fall. But it dropped; the light of heaven 
Frightened poor Dora. She backed; swung up the water, 
And nearly oversetting the buggy turned and scrambled back- 
ward; the iron wheel-tires rang on boulders. 

Then California weeping climbed between the wheels. Her wet 

clothes and the toys packed under 
Dragged her down with their weight; she stripped off cloak and 

dress and laid the baby's things in the buggy; 
Brought Johnny's whiskey out from under the seat; wrapped all 

in the dress, bottles and toys, and tied them 
Into a bundle that would sling over her back. She unharnessed 

the mare, hurting her fingers 
Against the swollen straps and the wet buckles. She tied the pack 

over her shoulders, the cords 
Crossing her breasts, and mounted. She drew up her shift about 

her waist and knotted it, naked thighs 
Clutching the sides of the mare, bare flesh to the wet withers, and 

caught the mane with her right hand, 
The looped-up bridle-reins in the other. "Dora, the baby gives 

you light." The blinding radiance 



Hovered the ford. "Sweet baby Jesus give us light." Cataracts of 

light and Latin singing 
Fell through the willows; the mare snorted and reared: the roar 

and thunder of the invisible water; 
The night shaking open like a flag, shot with the flashes; the 

baby face hovering; the water 
Beating over her shoes and stockings up to the bare thighs; and 

over them, like a beast 
Lapping her belly; the wriggle and pitch of the mare swimming; 

the drift, the sucking water; the blinding 
Light above and behind with not a gleam before, in the throat 

of darkness; the shock of the fore-hooves 
Striking bottom, the struggle and surging lift of the haunches. 

She felt the water streaming off her 
From the shoulders down; heard the great strain and sob of the 

mare's breathing, heard the horseshoes grind on gravel. 
When California came home the dog at the door snuffed at her 

without barking; Christine and Johnny 
Both were asleep; she did not sleep for hours, but kindled fire 

and knelt patiently over it, 
Shaping and drying the dear-bought gifts for Christmas morning. 

She hated (she thought) the proud-necked stallion. 

He'd lean the big twin masses of his breast on the rail, his red- 
brown eyes flash the white crescents, 

She admired him then, she hated him for his uselessness, serving 

But Johnny's vanity. Horses were too cheap to breed. She thought, 
if he could range in freedom, 

Shaking the red-roan mane for a flag on the bare hills. 

A man 
brought up a mare in April; 

Then California, though she wanted to watch, stayed with Chris- 
tine indoors. When the child fretted 

The mother told her once more about the miracle of the ford; 
her prayer to the little Jesus 

The Christmas Eve when she was bringing the gifts home; the 
appearance, the lights, the Latin singing, 



The thunder of wing-feathers and water, the shining child, the 

cataracts of splendor down the darkness. 
"A little baby," Christine asked, "the God is a baby?" "The child 

of God. That was his birthday. 
His mother was named Mary: we pray to her too: God came to 

her. He was not the child of a man 
Like you or me. God was his father: she was the stallion's wife 

what did I say God's wife," 
She said with a cry, lifting Christine aside, pacing the planks of 

the floor. "She is called more blessed 
Than any woman. She was so good, she was more loved." "Did 

God live near her house?" "He lives 
Up high, over the stars; he ranges on the bare blue hill of the 

sky." In her mind a picture 
Flashed, of the red-roan mane shaken out for a flag on the bare 

hills, and she said quickly, "He's more 
Like a great man holding the sun in his hand." Her mind giving 

her words the lie, "But no one 
Knows, only the shining and the power. The power, the terror, 

the burning fire covered her over . . ." 
"Was she burnt up, mother?" "She was so good and lovely, she 

was the mother of the little Jesus. 
If you are good nothing will hurt you." "What did she think?" 

"She loved, she was not afraid of the hooves 
Hands that had made the hills and sun and moon, and the sea 

and the great redwoods, the terrible strength, 
She gave herself without thinking." "You only saw the baby, 

mother?" "Yes, and the angels about him, 
The great wild shining over the black river." Three times she 

had walked to the door, three times returned, 
And now the hand that had thrice hung on the knob, full of 

prevented action, twisted the cloth 
Of the child's dress that she had been mending. "Oh, oh, I've 

torn it." She struck at the child and then embraced her 
Fiercely, the small blonde sickly body. 

Johnny came in, his face 

reddened as if he had stood 



Near fire, his eyes triumphing. "Finished," he said, and looked 

with malice at Christine. "I go 
Down valley with Jim Carrier; owes me five dollar, fifteen I 

charge him, he brought ten in his pocket. 
Has grapes on the ranch, maybe I take a barrel red wine instead 

of money. Be back to-morrow. 
To-morrow night I tell you Eh, Jim," he laughed over his 

shoulder, "I say to-morrow evening 
I show her how the red fellow act, the big fellow. When I come 

home." She answered nothing, but stood 
In front of the door, holding the little hand of her daughter, in the 

path of sun between the redwoods, 
While Johnny tied the buckskin mare behind Carrier's buggy, 

and bringing saddle and bridle tossed them 
Under the seat. Jim Carrier's mare, the bay, stood with drooped 

head and started slowly, the men 
Laughing and shouting at her; their voices could be heard down 

the steep road, after the noise 
Of the iron-hooped wheels died from the stone. Then one might 

hear the hush of the wind in the tall redwoods, 
The tinkle of the April brook, deep in its hollow. 

Humanity is 

the start of the race; I say 
Humanity is the mould to break away from, the crust to break 

through, the coal to break into fire, 
The atom to be split. 

Tragedy that breaks man's face and a white 

fire flies out of it; vision that fools him 
Out of his limits, desire that fools him out of his limits, unnatural 

crime, inhuman science, 
Slit eyes in the mask; wild loves that leap over the walls of nature, 

the wild fcnce-vaulter science, 
Useless intelligence of far stars, dim knowledge of the spinning 

demons that make an atom, 
These break, these pierce, these deify, praising their God shrilly 

with fierce voices: not in a man's shape 
He approves the praise, he that walks lightning-naked on die 

Pacific, that laces the suns with planets, 



The heart of the atom with electrons: what is humanity in this 

cosmos? For him, the last 
Least taint of a trace in the dregs of the solution; for itself, the 

mould to break away from, the coal 
To break into fire, the atom to be split. 

After the child slept, after 

the leopard-footed evening 
Had glided oceanward, California turned the lamp to its least 

flame and glided from the house. 
She moved sighing, like a loose fire, backward and forward on 

the smooth ground by the door. 
She heard the night-wind that draws down the valley like the 

draught in a flue under clear weather 
Whisper and toss in the tall redwoods; she heard the tinkle of 

the April brook deep in its hollow. 
Cooled by the night the odors that the horses had left behind 

were in her nostrils; the night 
Whitened up the bare hill; a drift of coyotes by the river cried 

bitterly against moonrise; 
Then California ran to the old corral, the empty one where they 

kept the buckskin mare, 
And leaned, and bruised her breasts on the rail, feeling the sky 

whiten. When the moon stood over the hill 
She stole to the house. The child breathed quietly. Herself: to 

sleep? She had seen Christ in the night at Christmas. 
The hills were shining open to the enormous night of the April 

moon: empty and empty, 
The vast round backs of the bare hills? If one should ride up 

high might not the Father himself 
Be seen brooding His night, cross-legged, chin in hand, squatting 

on the last dome? More likely 
Leaping the hills, shaking the red-roan mane for a flag on the 

bare hills. She blew out the lamp. 
Every fiber of flesh trembled with faintness when she came to 

the door; strength lacked, to wander 
Afoot into the shining of the hill, high enough, high enough . . . 

the hateful face of a man had taken 



The strength that might have served her, the corral was empty. 

The dog followed her, she caught him by the collar, 
Dragged him in fierce silence back to the door of the house, 

latched him inside. 

It was like daylight 

Outdoors and she hastened without faltering down the foot- 
path, through the dark fringe of twisted oak-brush, 
To the open place in a bay of the hill. The dark strength of the 

stallion had heard her coming; she heard him 
Blow the shining air out of his nostrils, she saw him in the white 

lake of moonlight 
Move like a lion along the timbers of the fence, shaking the 

Of the great mane; his fragrance came to her; she leaned on the 

He drew away from it, the hooves making soft thunder in the 

trodden soil. 
Wild love had trodden it, his wrestling with the stranger, the 

shame of the day 

Had stamped it into mire and powder when the heavy fetlocks 
Strained the soft flanks. "Oh, if I could bear you! 
If I had the strength. O great God that came down to Mary, 

gently you came. But I will ride him 
Up into the hill, if he throws me, if he tramples me, is it not 

my desire 
To endure death?" She climbed the fence, pressing her body 

against the rail, shaking like fever, 
And dropped inside to the soft ground. He neither threatened 

her with his teeth nor fled from her coming, 
And lifting her hand gently to the upflung head she caught 

the strap of the headstall, 
That hung under the quivering chin. She unlooped the halter 

from the high strength of the neck 
And the arch the storm-cloud mane hung with live darkness. He 

stood; she crushed her breasts 
On the hard shoulder, an arm over the withers, the other under 

the mass of his throat, and murmuring 


Like a mountain dove, "If I could bear you." No way, no help, 

a gulf in nature. She murmured, "Come, 
We will run on the hill. O beautiful, O beautiful," and led him 
To the gate and flung the bars on the ground. He threw his head 

To snuff at the bars; and while he stood, she catching mane and 

withers with all sudden contracture 
And strength of her lithe body, leaped, clung hard, and was 

mounted. He had been ridden before; he did not 
Fight the weight but ran like a stone falling; 
Broke down the slope into the moon-glass of the stream, and 

flattened to his neck 
She felt the branches of a buckeye tree fly over her, saw the 

wall of the oak-scrub 

End her world: but he turned there, the matted branches 
Scraped her right knee, the great slant shoulders 
Laboring the hill-slope, up, up, the clear hill. Desire had died 

in her 

At the first rush, the falling like death, but now it revived, 
She feeling between her thighs the labor of the great engine, the 

running muscles, the hard swiftness, 
She riding the savage and exultant strength of the world. Having 

topped the thicket he turned eastward, 
Running less wildly; and now at length he felt the halter when 

she drew on it; she guided him upward; 
He stopped and grazed on the great arch and pride of the hill, 

the silent calvary. A dwarfish oakwood 
Climbed the other slope out of the dark of the unknown canyon 

beyond; the last wind-beaten bush of it 
Crawled up to the height, and California slipping from her mount 

tethered him to it. She stood then, 
Shaking. Enormous films of moonlight 
Trailed down from the height. Space, anxious whiteness, vastness. 

Distant beyond conception the shining ocean 
Lay light like a haze along the ledge and doubtful world's end. 

Little vapors gleaming, and little 
Darknesses on the far chart underfoot symbolized wood and 

valley; but the air was the element, the moon- 



Saturate arcs and spires of the air. 

Here is solitude, here on the 

calvary, nothing conscious 
But the possible God and the cropped grass, no witness, no eye 

but that misformed one, the moon's past fullness. 
Two figures on the shining hill, woman and stallion, she kneeling 

to him, brokenly adoring. 
He cropping the grass, shifting his hooves, or lifting the long 

head to gaze over the world, 
Tranquil and powerful. She prayed aloud, "O God, I am not 

good enough, O fear, O strength, I am draggled. 
Johnny and other men have had me, and O clean power! Here 

am I," she said, falling before him, 
And crawled to his hooves. She lay a long while, as if asleep, in 

reach of the fore-hooves, weeping. He avoided 
Her head and the prone body. He backed at first; but later 

plucked the grass that grew by her shoulder. 
The small dark head under his nostrils: a small round stone, that 

smelt human, black hair growing from it: 
The skull shut the light in: it was not possible for any eyes 
To know what throbbed and shone under the sutures of the 

skull, or a shell full of lightning 
Had scared the roan strength, and he'd have broken tether, 

screaming, and run for the valley. 

The atom bounds-breaking, 

Nucleus to sun, electrons to planets, with recognition 
Not praying, self-equaling, the whole to the whole, the microcosm 
Not entering nor accepting entrance, more equally, more utterly, 

more incredibly conjugate 
With the other extreme and greatness; passionately perceptive of 

identity. . . . 

The fire threw up figures 
And symbols meanwhile, racial myths formed and dissolved in 

it, the phantom rulers of humanity 
That without being are yet more real than what they are born of, 

and without shape, shape that which makes them: 
The nerves and the flesh go by shadowlike, the limbs and the lives 

shadowlike, these shadows remain, these shadows 



To whom temples, to whom churches, to whom labors and wars, 

visions and dreams are dedicate: 
Out of the fire in the small round stone that black moss covered, 

a crucified man writhed up in anguish; 
A woman covered by a huge beast in whose mane the stars were 

netted, sun and moon were his eyeballs, 
Smiled under the unendurable violation, her throat swollen with 

the storm and blood-flecks gleaming 
On the stretched lips; a womanno, a dark water, split by jets 

of lightning, and after a season 

What floated up out of the furrowed water, a boat, a fish, a fire- 

It had wings, the creature, 
And flew against the fountain of lightning, fell burnt out of the 

cloud back to the bottomless water . . . 
Figures and symbols, castlings of the fire, played in her brain; 

but the white fire was the essence, 
The burning in the small round shell of bone that black hair 

covered, that lay by the hooves on the hilltop. 

She rose at length, she unknotted the halter; she walked and led 
the stallion; two figures, woman and stallion, 

Came down the silent emptiness of the dome of the hill, under 
the cataract of the moonlight. 

The next night there was moon through cloud. Johnny had re- 
turned half drunk toward evening, and California 

Who had known him for years with neither love nor loathing 
to-night hating him had let the child Christine 

Play in the light of the lamp for hours after her bedtime; who 
fell asleep at length on the floor 

Beside the dog; then Johnny: "Put her to bed." She gathered the 
child against her breasts, she laid her 

In the next room, and covered her with a blanket. The window 
was white, the moon had risen. The mother 

Lay down by the child, but after a moment Johnny stood in 
the doorway. "Come drink." He had brought home 

Two jugs of wine slung from the saddle, part payment for the 
stallion's service; a pitcher of it 



Was on the table, and California sadly came and emptied her 

glass. Whiskey, she thought, 
Would have erased him till to-morrow; the thin red wine. . . . 

"We have a good evening," he laughed, pouring it. 
"One glass yet then I show you what the red fellow did." She 

moving toward the house-door his eyes 
Followed her, the glass filled and the red juice ran over the table. 

When it struck the floor-planks 
He heard and looked. "Who stuck the pig?" he muttered stupidly, 

"here's blood, here's blood," and trailed his fingers 
In the red lake under the lamplight. While he was looking down 

the door creaked, she had slipped outdoors, 
And he, his mouth curving like a faun's imagined the chase under 

the solemn redwoods, the panting 
And unresistant victim caught in a dark corner. He emptied the 

glass and went outdoors 
Into the dappled lanes of moonlight. No sound but the April 

brook's. "Hey Bruno," he called, "find her. 
Bruno, go find her." The dog after a little understood and quested, 

the man following. 
When California crouching by an oak-bush above the house 

heard them come near she darted 
To the open slope and ran down hill. The dog barked at her 

heels, pleased with the game, and Johnny 
Followed in silence. She ran down to the new corral, she saw 

the stallion 
Move like a lion along the timbers of the fence, the dark arched 

neck shaking the nightfall 
Of the great mane; she threw herself prone and writhed under 

the bars, his hooves backing away from her 
Made muffled thunder in the soft soil. She stood in the midst of 

the corral, panting, but Johnny 
Paused at the fence. The dog ran under it, and seeing the stallion 

move, the woman standing quiet, 
Danced after the beast, with white-tooth feints and dashes. When 

Johnny saw the formidable dark strength 
Recoil from the dog, he climbed up over the fence. 



The child Christine waked when her mother left her 

And lay half dreaming, in the half-waking dream she saw the 

ocean come up out of the west 
And cover the world, she looked up through clear water at the 

tops of the redwoods. She heard the door creak 
And the house empty; her heart shook her body, sitting up on the 

bed, and she heard the dog 
And crept toward light, where it gleamed under the crack of the 

door. She opened the door, the room was empty, 
The table-top was a red lake under the lamplight. The color of 

it was terrible to her; 
She had seen the red juice drip from a coyote's muzzle her father 

had shot one day in the hills 
And carried him home over the saddle: she looked at the rifle on 

the wall-rack: it was not moved: 
She ran to the door, the dog was barking and the moon was 

shining: she knew wine by the odor 
But the color frightened her, the empty house frightened her, 

she followed down hill in the white lane of moonlight 
The friendly noise of the dog. She saw in the big horse's corral, 

on the level shoulder of the hill, 
Black on white, the dark strength of the beast, the dancing fury 

of the dog, and the two others. 
One fled, one followed; the big one charged, rearing; one fell 

under his fore-hooves. She heard her mother 
Scream: without thought she ran to the house, she dragged a 

chair past the red pool and climbed to the rifle, 
Got it down from the wall and lugged it somehow through the 

door and down the hillside, under the hard weight 
Sobbing. Her mother stood by the rails of the corral, she gave 

it to her. On the far side 
The dog flashed at the plunging stallion; in the midst of the space 

the man, slow-moving, like a hurt worm 
Crawling, dragged his body by inches toward the fence-line. Then 

California, resting the rifle 

On the top rail, without doubting, without hesitance, 
Aimed for the leaping body of the dog, and when it stood, fired. 

It snapped, rolled over, lay quiet. 


"O mother you've hit Bruno!" "I couldn't see the sights in the 

moonlight/' she answered quietly. She stood 
And watched, resting the rifle-butt on the ground. The stallion 

wheeled, freed from his torment, the man 
Lurched up to his knees, wailing a thin and bitter bird's cry, and 

the roan thunder 
Struck; hooves left nothing alive but teeth tore up the remnant. 

"O mother, shoot, shoot!" Yet California 
Stood carefully watching, till the beast having fed all his fury 

stretched neck to utmost, head high, 
And wrinkled back the upper lip from the teeth, yawning obscene 

disgust over not a man 
A smear on the moon-like earth: then California moved by some 

obscure human fidelity 
Lifted the rifle. Each separate nerve-cell of her brain flaming the 

stars fell from their places 
Crying in her mind: she fired three times before the haunches 

crumpled sidewise, the forelegs stiffening, 
And the beautiful strength settled to earth: she turned then on 

her little daughter the mask of a woman 
Who has killed God. The night-wind veering, the smell of the 

spilt wine drifted down hill from the house. 



The ebb slips from the rock, the sunken 
Tide-rocks lift streaming shoulders 
Out of the slack, the slow west 
Sombering its torch; a ship's light 
Shows faintly, far out, 
Over the weight of the prone ocean 
On the low cloud. 

Over the dark mountain, over the dark pinewood, 
Down the long dark valley along the shrunken river, 
Returns the splendor without rays, the shining of shadow, 
Peace-bringer, the matrix of all shining and quieter of shining. 
Where the shore widens on the bay she opens dark wings 
And the ocean accepts her glory. O soul worshipful of her 
You like the ocean have grave depths where she dwells always, 
And the film of waves above that takes the sun takes also 
Her, with more love. The sun-lovers have a blond favorite, 
A father of lights and noises, wars, weeping and laughter, 
Hot labor, lust and delight and the other blemishes. Quietness 
Flows from her deeper fountain; and he will die; and she is 

Far off from here the slender 

Flocks of the mountain forest 

Move among stems like towers 

Of the old redwoods to the stream, 

No twig crackling; dip shy 

Wild muzzles into the mountain water 

Among the dark ferns. 


O passionately at peace you being secure will pardon 

The blasphemies of glowworms, the lamp in my tower, the 


Of cities, the cressets of the planets, the pride of the stars. 
This August night in a rift of cloud Antares reddens, 
The great one, the ancient torch, a lord among lost children, 
The earth's orbit doubled would not girdle his greatness, one fire 
Globed, out of grasp of the mind enormous; but to you O Night 
What? Not a spark? What flicker of a spark in the faint far 

Of a lost fire dying in the desert, dim coals of a sand-pit the 

Wandered from at dawn . . . Ah singing prayer to what gulfs 


Suddenly are you more lost? To us the near-hand mountain 
Be a measure of height, the tide-worn cliff at the sea-gate a 

measure of continuance. 

The tide, moving the night's 

Vastness with lonely voices, 

Turns, the deep dark-shining 

Pacific leans on the land, 

Feeling his cold strength 

To the outmost margins: you Night will resume 

The stars in your time. 

O passionately at peace when will that tide draw shoreward? 
Truly the spouting fountains of light, Antares, Arcturus, 
Tire of their flow, they sing one song but they think silence. 
The striding winter giant Orion shines, and dreams darkness. 
And life, the flicker of men and moths and the wolf on the hill, 
Though furious for continuance, passionately feeding, passionately 
Remaking itself upon its mates, remembers deep inward 
The calm mother, the quietness of the womb and the egg, 
The primal and the latter silences: dear Night it is memory 
Prophesies, prophecy that remembers, the charm of the dark. 
And I and my people, we are willing to love the four-score years 
Heartily; but as a sailor loves the sea, when the helm is for harbor. 


Have men's minds changed, 

Or the rock hidden in the deep of the waters of the soul 

Broken the surface? A few centuries 

Gone by, was none dared not to people 

The darkness beyond the stars with harps and habitations. 

But now, dear is the truth. Life is grown sweeter and lonelier, 

And death is no evil. 



The fierce musical cries of a couple of sparrowhawks hunting 

on the headland, 

Hovering and darting, their heads northwestward, 
Prick like silver arrows shot through a curtain the noise of the 


Trampling its granite; their red backs gleam 
Under my window around the stone corners; nothing gracefuller, 


Nimbler in the wind. Westward the wave-gleaners, 
The old gray sea-going gulls are gathered together, the north- 
west wind wakening 

Their wings to the wild spirals of the wind-dance. 
Fresh as the air, salt as the foam, play birds in the bright wind, 

fly falcons 

Forgetting the oak and the pinewood, come gulls 
From the Carmel sands and the sands at the river-mouth, from 

Lobos and out of the limitless 
Power of the mass of the sea, for a poem 
Needs multitude, multitudes of thoughts, all fierce, all flesh-eaters, 

musically clamorous 

Bright hawks that hover and dart headlong, and ungainly 
Gray hungers fledged with desire of transgression, salt slimed 

beaks, from the sharp 
Rock-shores of the world and the secret waters. 



Invisible gulls with human voices cry in the sea-cloud 

"There is room, wild minds, 

Up high in the cloud; the web and the feather remember 

Three elements, but here 

Is but one, and the webs and the feathers 

Subduing but the one 

Are the greater, with strength and to spare." You dream, wild 


The peace that all life 

Dreams gluttonously, the infinite self that has eaten 
Environment, and lives 

Alone, unencroached on, perfectly gorged, one God. 
Caesar and Napoleon 

Visibly acting their dream of that solitude, Christ and Gautama, 
Being God, devouring 

The world with atonement for God's sake . . . ah sacred hungers, 
The conqueror's, the prophet's, 

The lover's, the hunger of the sea-beaks, slaves of the last peace, 
Worshippers of oneness. 



Sports and gallantries, the stage, the arts, the antics of dancers, 

The exuberant voices of music, 

Have charm for children but lack nobility; it is bitter earnestness 

That makes beauty; the mind 

Knows, grown adult. 

A sudden fog-drift muffled the ocean, 
A throbbing of engines moved in it, 

At length, a stone's throw out, between the rocks and the vapor, 
One by one moved shadows 

Out of the mystery, shadows, fishing-boats, trailing each other 
Following the cliff for guidance, 

Holding a difficult path between the peril of the sea-fog 
And the foam on the shore granite. 
One by one, trailing their leader, six crept by me, 
Out of the vapor and into it, 
The throb of their engines subdued by the fog, patient and 


Coasting all round the peninsula 

Back to the buoys in Monterey harbor. A flight of pelicans 
Is nothing lovelier to look at; 

The flight of the planets is nothing nobler; all the arts lose virtue 
Against the essential reality 

Of creatures going about their business among the equally 
Earnest elements of nature. 


White-maned, wide-throated, the heavy-shouldered children of 

the wind leap at the sea-cliff. 
The invisible falcon 

Brooded on water and bred them in wide waste places, in a bride- 
chamber wide to the stars' eyes 
In the center of the ocean, 
Where no prows pass nor island is lifted ... the sea beyond 

Lobos is whitened with the falcon's 
Passage, he is here now, 
The sky is one cloud, his wing-feathers hiss in the white grass, 

my sapling cypresses writhing 
In the fury of his passage 
Dare not dream of their centuries of future endurance of tempest. 

(I have granite and cypress, 
Both long-lasting, 
Planted in the earth; but the granite sea-boulders are prey to no 

hawk's wing, they have taken worse pounding, 
Like me they remember 
Old wars and are quiet; for we think that the future is one piece 

with the past, we wonder why tree-tops 
And people are so shaken.) 



Great-enough both accepts and subdues; the great frame takes 

all creatures; 

From the greatness of their element they all take beauty. 
Gulls; and the dingy freightship lurching south in the eye of a 


The airplane dipping over the hill; hawks hovering 
The white grass of the headland; cormorants roosting upon the 

Whitened skerries; pelicans a wind; sea-slime 
Shining at night in the wave-stir like drowned men's lanterns; 

smugglers signaling 

A cargo to land; or the old Point Pinos lighthouse 
Lawfully winking over dark water; the flight of the twilight 


Lonely wings and a cry; or with motor-vibrations 
That hum in the rock like a new storm-tone of the ocean's to 

turn eyes westward 

The navy's new-bought Zeppelin going by in the twilight, 
Far out seaward; relative only to the evening star and the ocean 
It slides into a cloud over Point Lobos. 


A desert of weed and water-darkened stone under my western 

The ebb lasted all afternoon, 

And many pieces of humanity, men, women, and children, gath- 
ering shellfish, 

Swarmed with voices of gulls the sea-breach. 

At twilight they went off together, the verge was left vacant, an 
evening heron 

Bent broad wings over the black ebb, 

And left me wondering why a lone bird was dearer to me than 
many people. 

Well: rare is dear: but also I suppose 

Well reconciled with the world but not with our own natures 
we grudge to see them 

Reflected on the world for a mirror. 



Though the little clouds ran southward still, the quiet autumnal 

Cool of the late September evening 

Seemed promising rain, rain, the change of the year, the angel 

Of the sad forest. A heron flew over 

With that remote ridiculous cry, "Quawk," the cry 

That seems to make silence more silent. A dozen 

Flops of the wing, a drooping glide, at the end of the glide 

The cry, and a dozen flops of the wing. 

I watched him pass on the autumn-colored sky; beyond him 

Jupiter shone for evening star. 

The sea's voice worked into my mood, I thought "No matter 

What happens to men . . . the world's well made though." 



While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heav- 
ily thickening to empire, 

And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, 
and the mass hardens, 

I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the 

fruit rots to make earth. 
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness 

and decadence; and home to the mother. 

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, 

be it stubbornly long or suddenly 
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: 

shine, perishing republic. 

But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from 

the thickening center; corruption 
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's 

feet there are left the mountains. 

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever 

servant, insufferable master. 
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught they 

say God, when he walked on earth. 



Mountains, a moment's earth-waves rising and hollowing; the 

earth too's an ephemerid; the stars- 
Short-lived as grass the stars quicken in the nebula and dry in their 
summer, they spiral 

Blind up space, scattered black seeds of a future; nothing lives 
long, the whole sky's 

Recurrences tick the seconds of the hours of the ages of the gulf 
before birth, and the gulf 

After death is like dated: to labor eighty years in a notch of 
eternity is nothing too tiresome, 

Enormous repose after, enormous repose before, the flash of 

Surely you never have dreamed the incredible depths were pro- 
logue and epilogue merely 

To the surface play in the sun, the instant of life, what is called 
life? I fancy 

That silence is the thing, this noise a found word for it; inter- 
jection, a jump of the breath at that silence; 

Stars burn, grass grows, men breathe: as a man finding treasure 
says "Ah!" but the treasure's the essence; 

Before the man spoke it was there, and after he has spoken he 
gathers it, inexhaustible treasure. 



Though joy is better than sorrow joy is not great; 

Peace is great, strength is great. 

Not for joy the stars burn, not for joy the vulture 

Spreads her gray sails on the air 

Over the mountain; not for joy the worn mountain 

Stands, while years like water 

Trench his long sides. "I am neither mountain nor bird 

Nor star; and I seek joy." 

The weakness of your breed: yet at length quietness 

Will cover those wistful eyes. 

(FEBRUARY, 1924) 

It said "Come home, here is an end, a goal, 

Not the one raced for, is it not better indeed? Victory you know 

Force to sustain victory, the burden is never lightened, but final 

Buys peace: you have praised peace, peace without victory." 

He said "It seems I am traveling no new way, 

But leaving my great work unfinished how can I rest? I enjoyed 

a vision, 

Endured betrayal, you must not ask me to endure final defeat, 
Visionless men, blind hearts, blind mouths, live still." 

It said "Yet perhaps your vision was less great 

Than some you scorned, it has not proved even so practicable; 

Enters this pass with less reluctance. As to betrayals: there are so 

Betrayals, the Russians and the Germans know." 

He said "I knew I have enemies, I had not thought 

To meet one at this brink: shall not the mocking voices die in 

the grave?" 
It said "They shall. Soon there is silence." "I dreamed this end," 

he said, "when the prow 
Of the long ship leaned against dawn, my people 

Applauded me, and the world watched me. Again 

I dreamed it at Versailles, the time I sent for the ship, and the 

obstinate foreheads 
That shared with me the settlement of the world flinched at my 

threat and yielded. 
That is all gone. ... Do I remember this darkness?" 



It said "No man forgets it but a moment. 

The darkness before the mother, the depth of the return." "I 

thought/' he answered, 
"That I was drawn out of this depth to establish the earth on 

peace. My labor 
Dies with me, why was I drawn out of this depth?" 

It said "Loyal to your highest, sensitive, brave, 

Sanguine, some few ways wise, you and all men are drawn out of 

this depth 
Only to be these things you are, as flowers for color, falcons for 

Mountains for mass and quiet. Each for its quality 

Is drawn out of this depth. Your tragic quality 

Required the huge delusion of some major purpose to produce it. 

What, that the God of the stars needed your help?" He said 

"This is my last 
Worst pain, the bitter enlightenment that buys peace." 



Man, introverted man, having crossed 

In passage and but a little with the nature of things this latter 


Has begot giants; but being taken up 
Like a maniac with self-love and inward conflicts cannot manage 

his hybrids. 

Being used to deal with edgeless dreams, 
Now he's bred knives on nature turns them also inward: they 

have thirsty points though. 
His mind forebodes his own destruction; 
Actaeon who saw the goddess naked among leaves and his hounds 

tore him. 

A little knowledge, a pebble from the shingle, 
A drop from the oceans: who would have dreamed this infinitely 

little too much? 



In the purple light, heavy with redwood, the slopes drop sea- 

Headlong convexities of forest, drawn in together to the steep 
ravine. Below, on the sea-cliff, 

A lonely clearing; a little field of corn by the streamside; a roof 
under spared trees. Then the ocean 

Like a great stone someone has cut to a sharp edge and polished 
to shining. Beyond it, the fountain 

And furnace of incredible light flowing up from the sunk sun. 
In the little clearing a woman 

Is punishing a horse; she had tied the halter to a sapling at the 
edge of the wood, but when the great whip 

Clung to the flanks the creature kicked so hard she feared he 
would snap the halter; she called from the house 

The young man her son; who fetched a chain tie-rope, they 
working together 

Noosed the small rusty links round the horse's tongue 

And tied him by the swollen tongue to the tree. 

Seen from this height they are shrunk to insect size. 

Out of all human relation. You cannot distinguish 

The blood dripping from where the chain is fastened, 

The beast shuddering; but the thrust neck and the legs 

Far apart. You can see the whip fall on the flanks . . . 

The gesture of the arm. You cannot see the face of the woman. 

The enormous light beats up out of the west across the cloud- 
bars of the trade-wind. The ocean 

Darkens, the high clouds brighten, the hills darken together. 
Unbridled and unbelievable beauty 

Covers the evening world . . . not covers, grows apparent out 
of it, as Venus down there grows out 

From the lit sky. What said the prophet? "I create good: and 
I create evil: I am the Lord." 




This coast crying out for tragedy like all beautiful places, 

(The quiet ones ask for quieter suffering: but here the granite cliff 

the gaunt cypresses crown 
Demands what victim? The dykes of red lava and black what 

Titan? The hills like pointed flames 
Beyond Soberanes, the terrible peaks of the bare hills under the 

sun, what immolation? ) 
This coast crying out for tragedy like all beautiful places: and 

like the passionate spirit of humanity 
Pain for its bread: God's, many victims', the painful deaths, the 

horrible transfigurements: I said in my heart, 
"Better invent than suffer: imagine victims 
Lest your own flesh be chosen the agonist, or you 
Martyr some creature to the beauty of the place." And I said, 
"Burn sacrifices once a year to magic 
Horror away from the house, this little house here 
You have built over the ocean with your own hands 
Beside the standing boulders: for what are we, 
The beast that walks upright, with speaking lips 
And little hair, to think we should always be fed, 
Sheltered, intact, and self-controlled? We sooner more liable 
Than the other animals. Pain and terror, the insanities of desire; 

not accidents but essential, 
And crowd up from the core:" I imagined victims for those 

wolves, I made them phantoms to follow, 
They have hunted the phantoms and missed the house. It is not 

good to forget over what gulfs the spirit 
Of the beauty of humanity, the petal of a lost flower blown 

seaward by the night-wind, floats to its quietness. 


Boulders blunted like an old bear's teeth break up from the 

headland; below them 
All the soil is thick with shells, the tide-rock feasts of a dead 




Here the granite flanks are scarred with ancient fire, the ghosts 
of the tribe 

Crouch in the nights beside the ghost of a fire, they try to re- 
member the sunlight, 

Light has died out of their skies. These have paid something for 
the future 

Luck of the country, while we living keep old griefs in memory: 
though God's 

Envy is not a likely fountain of ruin, to forget evils calls down 

Sudden reminders from the cloud: remembered deaths be our 

Imagined victims our salvation: white as the half moon at mid- 

Someone flamelike passed me, saying, "I am Tamar Cauldwell, 
I have my desire," 

Then the voice of the sea returned, when she had gone by, the 
stars to their towers. 

. . . Beautiful country burn again, Point Pinos down to the 
Sur Rivers 

Burn as before with bitter wonders, land and ocean and the 
Carmel water. 


He brays humanity in a mortar to bring the savor 

From the bruised root: a man having bad dreams, who invents 

victims, is only the ape of that God. 
He washes it out with tears and many waters, calcines it with 

fire in the red crucible, 
Deforms it, makes it horrible to itself: the spirit flies out and 

stands naked, he sees the spirit, 
He takes it in the naked ecstasy; it breaks in his hand, the atom 

is broken, the power that massed it 
Cries to the power that moves the stars, "I have come home to 

myself, behold me. 

I bruised myself in the flint mortar and burnt me 
In the red shell, I tortured myself, I flew forth, 
Stood naked of myself and broke me in fragments, 
And here am I moving the stars that are me." 


I have seen these ways of God: I know of no reason 

For fire and change and torture and the old returnings. 

He being sufficient might be still. I think they admit no reason; 

they are the ways of my love. 
Unmeasured power, incredible passion, enormous craft: no 

thought apparent but burns darkly 
Smothered with its own smoke in the human brain-vault: no 

thought outside: a certain measure in phenomena: 
The fountains of the boiling stars, the flowers on the foreland, 

the ever-returning roses of dawn. 



1 1 is likely enough that lions and scorpions 

Guard the end; life never was bonded to be endurable nor the 

act of dying 

Unpainful; the brain burning too often 
Earns, though it held itself detached from the object, often a 

burnt age. 

No matter, I shall not shorten it by hand. 
Incapable of body or unmoved of brain is no evil, one always 

went envying 

The quietness of stones. But if the striped blossom 
Insanity spread lewd splendors and lightning terrors at the end 

of the forest; 

Or intolerable pain work its known miracle, 
Exile the monarch soul, set a sick monkey in the office . . . 

remember me 

Entire and balanced when I was younger, 
And could lift stones, and comprehend in the praises the cruelties 

of life. 



Happy people die whole, they are all dissolved in a moment, 

they have had what they wanted, 
No hard gifts; the unhappy 
Linger a space, but pain is a thing that is glad to be forgotten; 

but one who has given 
His heart to a cause or a country, 
His ghost may spaniel it a while, disconsolate to watch it. I was 

wondering how long the spirit 
That sheds this verse will remain 
When the nostrils are nipped, when the brain rots in its vault 

or bubbles in the violence of fire 
To be ash in metal. I was thinking 
Some stalks of the wood whose roots I married to the earth of 

this place will stand five centuries; 
I held the roots in my hand, 
The stems of the trees between two fingers: how many remote 

generations of women 
Will drink joy from men's loins, 
And dragged from between the thighs of what mothers will 

giggle at my ghost when it curses the axemen, 
Gray impotent voice on the sea-wind, 
When the last trunk falls? The women's abundance will have 

built roofs over all this foreland; 
Will have buried the rock foundations 
I laid here: the women's exuberance will canker and fail in its 

time and like clouds the houses 
Unframe, the granite of the prime 
Stand from the heaps: come storm and wash clean: the plaster 

is all run to the sea and the steel 
All rusted; the foreland resumes 
The form we loved when we saw it. Though one at the end of 

the age and far off from this place 



Should meet my presence in a poem, 

The ghost would not care but be here, long sunset shadow in the 

seams of the granite, and forgotten 
The flesh, a spirit for the stone. 



When the sun shouts and people abound 

One thinks there were the ages of stone and the age of bronze 

And the iron age; iron the unstable metal; 

Steel made of iron, unstable as his mother; the towered-up cities 

Will be stains of rust on mounds of plaster. 

Roots will not pierce the heaps for a time, kind rains will cure 


Then nothing will remain of the iron age 
And all these people but a thigh-bone or so, a poem 
Stuck in the world's thought, splinters of glass 
In the rubbish dumps, a concrete dam far off in the mountain . . . 




Here were new idols again to praise him; 

I made them alive; but when they looked up at the face before 
they had seen it they were drunken and fell down. 

I have seen and not fallen, I am stronger than the idols, 

But my tongue is stone how could I speak him? My blood in my 
veins is seawater how could it catch fire? 

The rock shining dark rays and the rounded 

Crystal the ocean his beam of blackness and silence 

Edged with azure, bordered with voices; 

The moon her brittle tranquillity; the great phantoms, the foun- 
tains of light, the seed of the sky, 

Their plaintive splendors whistling to each other: 

There is nothing but shines though it shine darkness; nothing but 
answers; they are caught in the net of their voices 

Though the voices be silence; they are woven in the nerve-warp. 

One people, the stars and the people, one structure; the voids 
between stars, the voids between atoms, and the vacancy 

In the atom in the rings of the spinning demons, 

Are full of that weaving; one emptiness, one presence: who had 
watched all his splendor 

Had known but a little: all his night, but a little. 

I made glass puppets to speak of him, they splintered in my hand 
and have cut me, they are heavy with my blood. 

But the jewel-eyed herons have never beheld him 

Nor heard; nor the tall owl with cat's ears, the bittern in the 
willows, the squid in the rock in the silence of the ocean, 

The vulture that broods in the pitch of the blue 

And sees the earth globed, her edges dripping into rainbow twi- 
lights: eyed hungers, blind fragments: I sometime 

Shall fashion images great enough to face him 

A moment and speak while they die. These here have gone mad: 
but stammer the tragedy you crackled vessels. 



from CAWDOR 

(jrently with delicate mindless fingers 

Decomposition began to pick and caress the unstable chemistry 

Of the cells of the brain; Oh very gently, as the first weak breath 
of wind in a wood: the storm is still far, 

The leaves are stirred faintly to a gentle whispering: the nerve- 
cells, by what would soon destroy them, were stirred 

To a gentle whispering. Or one might say the brain began to 
glow, with its own light, in the starless 

Darkness under the dead bone sky; like bits of rotting wood on 
the floor of the night forest 

Warm rains have soaked, you see them beside the path shine like 
vague eyes. So gently the dead man's brain 

Glowing by itself made and enjoyed its dream. 

The nights of many 

years before this time 
He had been dreaming the sweetness of death, as a starved man 

dreams bread, but now decomposition 
Reversed the chemistry; who had adored in sleep under so many 

disguises the dark redeemer 

In death across a thousand metaphors of form and action cele- 
brated life. Whatever he had wanted 
To do or become was now accomplished, each bud that had been 

nipped and fallen grew out to a branch, 
Sparks of desire forty years quenched flamed up fulfilment. 
Out of time, undistracted by the nudging pulse-beat, perfectly 

real to itself being insulated 
From all touch of reality the dream triumphed, building from 

past experience present paradise 
More intense as the decay quickened, but ever more primitive 

as it proceeded, until the ecstasy 


Soared through a flighty carnival of wines and women to the 
simple delight of eating flesh, and tended 

Even higher, to an unconditional delight. But then the intercon- 
nections between the groups of the brain 

Failing, the dreamer and the dream split into multitude. Soon the 
altered cells became unfit to express 

Any human or at all describable form of consciousness. 

Pain and 
pleasure are not to be thought 

Important enough to require balancing: these flashes of post- 
mortal felicity by mindless decay 

Played on the breaking harp by no means countervalued the ex- 
cess of previous pain. Such discords 

In the passionate terms of human experience are not resolved, 
nor worth it. 


from CAWDOR 

While George went to the house 
For his revolver, Michal climbed up the hill 
Weeping; but when he came with death in his hand 
She'd not go away, but watched. At the one shot 
The great dark bird leaped at the roof of the cage 
In silence and struck the wood; it fell, then suddenly 
Looked small and soft, muffled in its folded wings. 

The nerves of men after they die dream dimly 

And dwindle into their peace; they are not very passionate, 

And what they had was mostly spent while they lived. 

They are sieves for leaking desire; they have many pleasures 

And conversations; their dreams too are like that. 

The unsocial birds are a greater race; 

Cold-eyed, and their blood burns. What leaped up to death, 

The extension of one storm-dark wing filling its world, 

Was more than the soft garment that fell. Something had flown 

away. Oh cage-hoarded desire, 
Like the blade of a breaking wave reaped by the wind, or flame 

rising from fire, or cloud-coiled lightning 
Suddenly unfurled in the cave of heaven: I that am stationed, 

and cold at heart, incapable of burning, 

My blood like standing sea-water lapped in a stone pool, my de- 
sire to the rock, how can I speak of you? 
Mine will go down to the deep rock. 

This rose, 

Possessing the air over its emptied prison, 
The eager powers at its shoulders waving shadowless 
Unwound the ever-widened spirals of flight 
As a star light, it spins the night-stabbing threads 
From its own strength and substance: so the aquiline desire 
Burned itself into meteor freedom and spired 


Higher still, and saw the mountain-dividing 
Canyon of its captivity (that was to Cawdor 
Almost his world) like an old crack in a wall, 
Violet-shadowed and gold-lighted; the little stain 
Spilt on the floor of the crack was the strong forest; 
The grain of sand was the Rock. A speck, an atomic 
Center of power clouded in its own smoke 
Ran and cried in the crack; it was Cawdor; the other 
Points of humanity had neither weight nor shining 
To prick the eyes of even an eagle's passion. 

This burned and soared. The shining ocean below lay on the 

Like the great shield of the moon come down, rolling bright rim 

to rim with the earth. Against it the multiform 
And many-canyoned coast-range hills were gathered into one 

carven mountain, one modulated 
Eagle's cry made stone, stopping the strength of the sea. The 

beaked and winged effluence 
Felt the air foam under its throat and saw 
The mountain sun-cup Tassajara, where fawns 
Dance in the steam of the hot fountains at dawn, 
Smoothed out, and the high strained ridges beyond Cachagua, 
Where the rivers are born and the last condor is dead, 
Flatten, and a hundred miles toward morning the Sierras 
Dawn with their peaks of snow, and dwindle and smooth down 
On the globed earth. 

It saw from the height and desert space of 

unbreathable air 
Where meteors make green fire and die, the ocean dropping 

westward to the girdle of the pearls of dawn 
And the hinder edge of the night sliding toward Asia; it saw 

far under eastward the April-delighted 
Continent; and time relaxing about it now, abstracted from being, 

it saw the eagles destroyed, 
Mean generations of gulls and crows taking their world: turn 

for turn in the air, as on earth 



The white faces drove out the brown. It saw the white decayed 

and the brown from Asia returning; 
It saw men learn to outfly the hawk's brood and forget it again; 

it saw men cover the earth and again 
Devour each other and hide in caverns, be scarce as wolves. It 

neither wondered nor cared, and it saw 
Growth and decay alternate forever, and the tides returning. 

It saw, according to the sight of its kind, the archetype 

Body of life a beaked carnivorous desire 

Self-upheld on storm-broad wings: but the eyes 

Were spouts of blood; the eyes were gashed out; dark blood 

Ran from the ruinous eye-pits to the hook of the beak 

And rained on the waste spaces of empty heaven. 

Yet the great Life continued; yet the great Life 

Was beautiful, and she drank her defeat, and devoured 

Her famine for food. 

There the eagle's phantom perceived 
Its prison and its wound were not its peculiar wretchedness, 
All that lives was maimed and bleeding, caged or in blindness, 
Lopped at the ends with death and conception, and shrewd 
Cautery of pain on the stumps to stifle the blood, but not 
Refrains for all that; life was more than its functions 
And accidents, more important than its pains and pleasures, 
A torch to burn in with pride, a necessary 
Ecstasy in the run of the cold substance, 
And scape-goat of the greater world. (But as for me, 
I have heard the summer dust crying to be born 
As much as ever flesh cried to be quiet.) 
Pouring itself on fulfilment the eagle's passion 
Left life behind and flew at the sun, its father. 
The great unreal talons took peace for prey 
Exultantly, their death beyond death; stooped upward, and struck 
Peace like a white fawn in a dell of fire. 


The old woman sits on a bench before the door and quarrels 

With her meager pale demoralized daughter. 

Once when I passed I found her alone, laughing in the sun 

And saying that when she was first married 

She lived in the old farmhouse up Garapatas Canyon. 

(It is empty now, the roof has fallen 

But the log walls hang on the stone foundation; the redwoods 

Have all been cut down, the oaks are standing; 

The place is now more solitary than ever before.) 

"When I was nursing my second baby 

My husband found a day-old fawn hid in a fern-brake 

And brought it; I put its mouth to the breast 

Rather than let it starve, I had milk enough for three babies. 

Hey, how it sucked, the little nuzzler, 

Digging its little hoofs like quills into my stomach. 

I had more joy from that than from the others." 

Her face is deformed with age, furrowed like a bad road 

With market-wagons, mean cares and decay. 

She is thrown up to the surface of things, a cell of dry skin 

Soon to be shed from the earth's old eyebrows, 

I see that once in her spring she lived in the streaming arteries, 

The stir of the world, the music of the mountain. 



The road had steepened and the sun sharpened on the high 

ridges; the stream probably was dry, 
Certainly not to be come to down the pit of the canyon. We 

stopped for water at the one farm 
In all that mountain. The trough was cracked with drought, the 

moss on the boards dead, but an old dog 
Rose like a wooden toy at the house-door silently. I said "There 

will be water somewhere about," 
And when I knocked a man showed us a spring of water. Though 

his hair was nearly white I judged him 
Forty years old at most. His eyes and voice were muted. It is 

likely he kept his hands hidden, 
I failed to see them until we had dipped the spring. He stood then 

on the lip of the great slope 
And looked westward over an incredible country to the far hills 

that dammed the sea-fog: it billowed 
Above them, cascaded over them, it never crossed them, gray 

standing flood. He stood gazing, his hands 
Were clasped behind him; I caught a glimpse of serous red under 

the fingers, and looking sharply 
When they drew apart saw that both hands were wounded. I said 

"Your hands are hurt." He twitched them from sight, 
But after a moment having earnestly eyed me displayed them. 

The wounds were in the hearts of the palms, 
Pierced to the backs like stigmata of crucifixion* The horrible 

raw flesh protruded, glistening 
And granular, not scabbed, nor a sign of infection* "These are 

old wounds." He answered, "Yes. They don't heal.** He stood 
Moving his lips in silence, his back against that fabulous basin 

of mountains, fold beyond fold, 
Patches of forest and scarps of rock, high domes of dead gray 

pasture and gray beds of dry rivers, 
dear and particular in die burning air, too bright to appear real, 

to the last range 



The fog from the ocean like a stretched compacted thunder- 
storm overhung; and he said gravely: 
"I pick them open. I made them long ago with a clean steel. It 

is only a litde to pay" 
He stretched and flexed the fingers, I saw his sunburnt lips whiten 

in a line, compressed together, 
"If only it proves enough for a time to save so many." I 

searched his face for madness but that 
Is often invisible, a subtle spirit. "There never," he said, "was 

any people earned so much ruin. 
I love them, I am trying to suffer for them. It would be bad if 

I should die, I am careful 
Against excess." "You think of the wounds," I said, "of Jesus?" 

He laughed angrily and frowned, stroking 
The fingers of one hand with the other. "Religion is the people's 

opium. Your little Jew-God? 
My pain," he said with pride, "is voluntary. 
They have done what never was done before. Not as a people 

takes a land to love it and be fed, 
A little, according to need and love, and again a little; sparing 

the country tribes, mixing 
Their blood with theirs, their minds with all the rocks and rivers, 

their flesh with the soil: no, without hunger 
Wasting the world and your own labor, without love possessing, 

not even your hands to the dirt but plows 
Like blades of knives; heartless machines; houses of steel: using 

and despising the patient earth . . . 
Oh, as a rich man eats a forest for profit and a field for vanity, 

so you came west and raped 
The continent and brushed its people to death. Without need, 

the weak skirmishing hunters, and without mercy. 
Well, God's a scarecrow; no vengeance out of old rags. But 

there are acts breeding their own reversals 
In their own bellies from the first day. I am here" he saidand 

broke off suddenly and said "They take horses 
And give them sicknesses through hollow needles, their blood 

saves babies: I am here on the mountain making 



Antitoxin for all the happy towns and farms, the lovely blameless 
children, the terrible 

Arrogant cities. I used to think them terrible: their gray pros- 
perity, 'their pride: from up here 

Specks of mildew. 

But when I am dead and all you with whole 

hands think of nothing but happiness, 
Will you go mad and kill each other? Or horror come over 

the ocean on wings and cover your sun? 
I wish," he said trembling, "I had never been born." 

His wife came from the door while he was talking. Mine asked 

her quietly, "Do you live all alone here, 
Are you not afraid?" "Certainly not," she answered, "he is 

always gentle and loving. I have no complaint 
Except his groans in the night keep me awake often. But when 

I think of other women's 
Troubles: my own daughter's: I'm older than my husband, I 

have been married before: deep is my peace." 



That sculptor we knew, the passionate-eyed son of a quarry- 

Who astonished Rome and Paris in his meteor youth, and then 
was gone, at his high tide of triumphs, 

Without reason or good-bye; I have seen him again lately, after 
twenty years, but not in Europe. 

In desert hills I rode a horse slack-kneed with thirst. Down a 

steep slope a dancing swarm 
Of yellow butterflies over a shining rock made me hope water. 

We slid down to the place, 
The spring was bitter but the horse drank. I imagined wearings 

of an old path from that wet rock 
Ran down the canyon; I followed, soon they were lost, I came 

to a stone valley in which it seemed 
No man nor his mount had ever ventured, you wondered 

whether even a vulture'd ever spread sail there. 
There were stones of strange form under a cleft in the far hill; 

I tethered the horse to a rock 

And scrambled over. A heap like a stone torrent, a moraine, 
But monstrously formed limbs of broken carving appeared in 

the rock-fall, enormous breasts, defaced heads 
Of giants, the eyes calm through the brute veils of fracture. It 

was natural then to climb higher and go in 
Up the cleft gate. The canyon was a sheer-walled crack wind- 
ing at the entrance, but around its bend 
The walls grew dreadful with stone giants, presences growing 

out of the rigid precipice, that strove 
In dream between stone and life, intense to cast their chaos . . . 

or to enter and return . . . stone-fleshed, nerve-stretched 
Great bodies ever more beautiful and more heavy with pain, 

they seemed leading to some unbearable 
Consummation of the ecstasy . . . but there, troll among 

Titans, the bearded master of the place accosted me 



In a cold anger, a mallet in his hand, filthy and ragged. There 

was no kindness in that man's mind, 
But after he had driven me down to the entrance he spoke a 


The merciless sun had found the slot now 
To hide in, and lit for the wick of that stone lamp-bowl a sky 

almost, I thought, abominably beautiful; 
While our lost artist we used to admire: for now I knew him: 

spoke of his passion. 

He said, "Marble? 

White marble is fit to model a snow-mountain: let man be 
modest. Nor bronze: I am bound to have my tool 

In my material, no irrelevances. I found this pit of dark-gray 
freestone, fine-grained, and tough enough 

To make sketches that under any weathering will last my life- 
time. . 

The town is eight miles off, I can fetch food and no one follows 

me home. I have water and a cave 
Here; and no possible lack of material. I need, therefore, nothing. 

As to companions, I make them. 
And models? They are seldom wanted; I know a Basque shepherd 

I sometimes use; and a woman of the town. 
What more? Sympathy? Praise? I have never desired them and 

also I have never deserved them. I will not show you 
More than the spalls you saw by accident. 

What I see is the enor- 
mous beauty of things, but what I attempt 

Is nothing to that. I am helpless toward that. 

It is only to form in stone the mould of some ideal humanity 
that might be worthy to be 

Under that lightning. Animalcules that God (if he were given 
to laughter) might omit to laugh at. 



Those children of my hands are tortured, because they feel," 

he said, "the storm of the outer magnificence. 
They are giants in agony. They have seen from my eyes 
The man-destroying beauty of the dawns over their notch 

yonder, and all the obliterating stars. 
But in their eyes they have peace. I have lived a little and I 

Peace marrying pain alone can breed that excellence in the 

luckless race, might make it decent 
To exist at all on the star-lit stone breast. 

I hope," he said, "that 
when I grow old and the chisel drops, 
I may crawl out on a ledge of the rock and die like a wolf." 


fragments are all I can remember, 
These in the flare of the desert evening. Having been driven 

so brutally forth I never returned; 
Yet I respect him enough to keep his name and the place secret. 

I hope that some other traveller 
May stumble on that ravine of Titans after their maker has 

died. While he lives, let him alone. 



August and laurelled have been content to speak for an age, 

and the ages that follow 
Respect them for that pious fidelity; 
But you have disfeatured time for timelessness. 
They had heroes for companions, beautiful youths to dream of, 


Women shed light down the great lines; 
But you have invoked the slime in the skull, 
The lymph in the vessels. They have shown men Gods like 

racial dreams, the woman's desire, 
The man's fear, the hawk-faced prophet's; but nothing 
Human seems happy at the feet of yours. 
Therefore though not forgotten, not loved, in gray old years 

in the evening leaning 
Over the gray stones of the tower-top, 
You shall be called heartless and blind; 
And watch new time answer old thought, not a face strange 

nor a pain astonishing; 
But you living be laired in the rock 
That sheds pleasure and pain like hailstones. 


The bird with the dark plumes in my blood, 

That never for one moment, however I patched my truces, 

Consented to make peace with the people, 

It is pitiful now to watch her pleasure in a breath of tempest 

Breaking the sad promise of spring. 

Are these that morose hawk's wings, vaulting, a mere mad 


The snow-shed peak, the violent precipice? 
Poor outlaw that would not value their praise do you prize 

their blame? 

"Their liking," she said, "was a long creance, 
But let them be kind enough to hate me, that opens the sky." 
It is almost as foolish my poor falcon 
To want hatred as to want love; and harder to win. 



If you should look for this place after a handful of lifetimes: 

Perhaps of my planted forest a few 

May stand yet, dark-leaved Australians or the coast cypress, 

With storm-drift; but fire and the axe are devils. 

Look for foundations of sea-worn granite, my fingers had the 

To make stone love stone, you will find some remnant. 

But if you should look in your idleness after ten thousand years: 

It is the granite knoll on the granite 

And lava tongue in the midst of the bay, by the mouth of the 

River-valley, these four will remain 

In the change of names. You will know it by the wild sea- 
fragrance of wind 

Though the ocean may have climbed or retired a little; 

You will know it by the valley inland that our sun and our moon 
were born from 

Before the poles changed; and Orion in December 

Evenings was strung in the throat of the valley like a lamp- 
lighted bridge. 

Come in the morning you will see white gulls 

Weaving a dance over blue water, the wane of the moon 

Their dance-companion, a ghost walking 

By daylight, but wider and whiter than any bird in the world. 

My ghost you needn't look for; it is probably 

Here, but a dark one, deep in the granite, not dancing on wind 

With the mad wings and the day moon. 



The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder, 

The wing trails like a banner in defeat, 

No more to use the sky forever but live with famine 

And pain a few days: cat nor coyote 

Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game with- 
out talons. 

He stands under the oak-bush and waits 

The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom 

And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it. 

He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse. 

The curs of the day come and torment him 

At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that 

The intrepid readiness*, the terrible eyes. 

The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those 

That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant. 

You do not know him, you communal people, or you have for- 
gotten him; 

Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him; 

Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember 


I'd sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the 

great redtail 

Had nothing left but unable misery 
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed 

under his talons when he moved. 
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom, 
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, 

asking for death, 
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old 



Implacable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. 

What fell was relaxed, 

Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what 
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river 

cried fear at its rising 
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality. 



When I considered it too closely, when I wore it like an 

element and smelt it like water, 
Life is become less lovely, the net nearer than the skin, a little 

troublesome, a little terrible. 

I pledged myself awhile ago not to seek refuge, neither in death 

nor in a walled garden, 
In lies nor gated loyalties, nor in the gates of contempt, that 

easily lock the world out of doors. 

Here on the rock it is great and beautiful, here on the foam- wet 

granite sea-fang it is easy to praise 
Life and water and the shining stones: but whose cattle are the 

herds of the people that one should love them? 

If they were yours, then you might take a cattle-breeder's de- 
light in the herds of the future. Not yours. 

Where the power ends let love, before it sours to jealousy. Leave 
the joys of government to Caesar. 

Who is born when the world wanes, when the brave soul of 
the world falls on decay in the flesh increasing 

Comes one with a great level mind, sufficient vision, sufficient 
blindness, and clemency for love. 

This is die breath of rottenness I smelt; from the world waiting, 

stalled between storms, decaying a little, 
Bitterly afraid to be hurt, but knowing it cannot draw die savior 

Caesar but out of the blood-bath. 

The apes of Christ lift up their hands to praise love: but wisdom 
without love is the present savior, 

Power without hatred, mind like a many-bladcd machine sub- 
duing the world with deep indifference. 



The apes of Christ itch for a sickness they have never known; 

words and the little envies will hardly 
Measure against that blinding fire behind the tragic eyes they 

have never dared to confront. 

Point Lobos lies over the hollowed water like a humped whale 

swimming to shoal; Point Lobos 
Was wounded with that fire; the hills at Point Sur endured it; 

the palace at Thebes; the hill Calvary. 

Out of incestuous love power and then ruin. A man forcing the 

imaginations of men, 
Possessing with love and power the people: a man defiling his 

own household with impious desire. 

King Oedipus reeling blinded from the palace doorway, red 

tears pouring from the torn pits 
Under the forehead; and the young Jew writhing on the domed 

hill in the earthquake, against the eclipse 

Frightfully uplifted for having turned inward to love the peo- 
ple: that root was so sweet Oh, dreadful agonist? 

I saw the same pierced feet, that walked in the same crime to its 
expiation; I heard the same cry. 

A bad mountain to build your world on. Am I another keeper 
of the people, that on my own shore, 

On the gray rock, by the grooved mass of the ocean, the sick- 
nesses I left behind me concern me? 

Here where the surf has come incredible ways out of the splendid 

west, over the deeps 
Light nor life sounds forever; here where enormous sundowns 

flower and burn through color to quietness; 

Then the ecstasy of the stars is present? As for the people, I 

have found my rock, let them find theirs. 
Let them lie down at Caesar's feet and be saved; and he in his 

time reap their daggers of gratitude. 



Yet I am the one made pledges against the refuge contempt, that 

easily locks the world out of doors. 
This people as much as the sea-granite is part of the God from 

whom I desire not to be fugitive. 

I see them: they are always crying. The shored Pacific makes 

perpetual music, and the stone mountains 
Their music of silence, the stars blow long pipings of light: 

the people are always crying in their hearts. 

One need not pity; certainly one must not love. But who has 
seen peace, if he should tell them where peace 

Lives in the world . . . they would be powerless to understand; 
and he is not willing to be reinvolved. 

How should one caught in the stone of his own person dare tell 

the people anything but relative to that? 
But if a man could hold in his mind all the conditions at once, 

of man and woman, of civilized 

And barbarous, of sick and well, of happy and under torture, 

of living and dead, of human and not 
Human, and dimly all the human future: what should persuade 

him to speak? And what could his words change? 

The mountain ahead of the world is not forming but fixed. But 

the man's words would be fixed also, 
Part of that mountain, under equal compulsion; under the same 

present compulsion in the iron consistency. 

And nobody sees good or evil but out of a brain a hundred cen- 
turies quieted, some desert 

Prophet's, a man humped like a camel, gone mad between the 
mud-walled village and the mountain sepulchres. 



Broad wagons before sunrise bring food into the city from the 

open farms, and the people are fed. 
They import and they consume reality. Before sunrise a hawk 

in the desert made them their thoughts. 

Here is an anxious people, rank with suppressed blood-thirstiness. 

Among the mild and unwarlike 
Gautama needed but live greatly and be heard, Confucius needed 

but live greatly and be heard. 

This people has not outgrown blood-sacrifice, one must writhe 
on the high cross to catch at their memories; 

The price is known. I have quieted love; for love of the people 
I would not do it. For power I would do it. 

But that stands against reason: what is power to a dead man, 
dead under torture? What is power to a man 

Living, after the flesh is content? Reason is never a root, neither 
of act nor desire. 

For power living I would never do it; they are not delightful to 
touch, one wants to be separate. For power 

After the nerves are put away underground, to lighten the ab- 
stract unborn children toward peace . . . 

A man might have paid anguish indeed. Except he had found 

the standing sea-rock that even this last 
Temptation breaks on; quieter than death but lovelier; peace 

that quiets the desire even of praising it. 


Yet look: are they not pitiable? No: if they lived forever they 

would be pitiable: 
But a huge gift reserved quite overwhelms them at the end; 

they are able then to be still and not cry. 



And having touched a little of the beauty and seen a little of the 

beauty of things, magically grow 
Across the funeral fire or the hidden stench of burial themselves 

into the beauty they admired, 

Themselves into the God, themselves into the sacred steep un* 

consciousness they used to mimic 
Asleep between lamp's death and dawn, while the last drunkard 

stumbled homeward down the dark street. 

They are not to be pitied but very fortunate; they need no savior, 

salvation comes and takes them by force, 
It gathers them into the great kingdoms of dust and stone, the 

blown storms, the stream's-end ocean. 

With this advantage over their granite grave-marks, of having 

realized the petulant human consciousness 
Before, and then the greatness, the peace: drunk from both 

pitchers: these to be pitied? These not fortunate? 

But while he lives let each man make his health in his mind, 

to love the coast opposite humanity 
And so be freed of love, laying it like bread on the waters; it is 

worst turned inward, it is best shot farthest. 

Love, the mad wine of good and evil, the saint's and murderer's, 

the mote in the eye that makes its object 
Shine the sun black; the trap in which it is better to catch the 

inhuman God than the hunter's own image. 



The little one-room schoolhousc among the redwoods 

Opened its door, a dozen children ran out 

And saw on the narrow road between the dense trees 

A persona girl by the long light-colored hair: 

The torn brown cloak that she wore might be a man's 

Or woman's eitherwalking hastily northward 

Among a huddle of sheep. Her thin young face 

Seemed joyful, and lighted from inside, and formed 

Too finely to be so wind-burnt. As she went forward 

One or another of the trotting sheep would turn 

Its head to look at her face, and one would press 

Its matted shoulder against her moving thigh. 

The schoolchildren stood laughing and shouting together. 

"Who's that?" "Clare Walker," they said, "down from the hill. 

She'd fifty sheep and now she's got eight, nine, 

Ten: what have you done with all the others, Clare Walker?" 

The joy that had lived in her face died, she yet 

Went on as if she were deaf, with forward eyes 

And lifted head, but the delicate lips moving. 

The jeering children ran in behind her, and the sheep 

Drew nervously on before, except the old ram, 

That close at her side dipped his coiled horns a little 

But neither looked back nor edged forward. An urchin shouted 

"You killed your daddy, why don't you kill your sheep?" 

And a fat girl, "Oh where's your lover, Clare Walker? 

He didn't want you after all." 

The patriarch ram 

That walked beside her wore a greasy brown bundle 
Tied on his back with cords in the felt of wool, 
And one of the little boys, running by, snatched at it 
So that it fell. Clare bent to gather it fallen, 
And tears dropped from her eyes. She offered no threat 
With the bent staff of rosy-barked madrone-wood 



That lay in her hand, but said "Oh please, Oh please," 

As meek as one of her ewes. An eight-year-old girl 

Shrilled, "Whistle for the dogs, make her run like a cat, 

Call your dog, Charlie Geary!" But a brown-skinned 

Spanish-Indian boy came forward and said, 

"You let her alone. They'll not hurt you, Clare Walker. 

Don't cry, I'll walk beside you." She thanked him, still crying. 

Four of the children, who lived southward, turned back; 

The rest followed more quietly. 

The black-haired boy 

Said gently, "Remember to keep in the road, Clare Walker. 
There's enough grass. The ranchers will sick their dogs on you 
If you go into the pastures, because their cows 
Won't eat where the sheep have passed; but you can walk 
Into the woods." She answered, "You're kind, you're kind. 
Oh yes, I always remember." The small road dipped 
Under the river when they'd come down the hill, 
A shallow mountain river that Clare skipped over 
By stone after stone, the sheep wading beside her. 
The friendly boy went south to the farm on the hill, "good-by, 

good-by," and Clare with her little flock 
Kept northward among great trees like towers in the river- valley. 

Her sheep sidled the path, snifHng 
The bitter sorrel, lavender-flowering in shade, and the withered 

ferns. Toward evening they found a hollow 
Of autumn grass. 


Clare laughed and was glad, she undid the bundle 

from the ram's back 
And found in the folds a battered metal cup and a broken loaf. 

She shared her bread with the sheep, 
A morsel for each, and prettily laughing 
Pushed down the reaching faces. "Piggies, eat grass. Leave me the 

crust, Tiny, I can't eat grass. 
Nosie, keep off. Here Frannie, here Frannie." One of the ewes 

came close and stood to be milked, Clare stroked 



The little udders and drank when the cup filled, and filled it again 

and drank, dividing her crust 
With the milch ewe; the flock wandered the glade, nibbling white 

grass. There was only one lamb among them, 
The others had died in the spring storm. 

The light in the glade 

suddenly increased and changed, the hill 
High eastward began to shine and be rosy-colored, and bathed 

in so clear a light that up the bare hill 
Each clump of yucca stood like a star, bristling sharp rays; while 

westward the spires of the giant wood 
Were strangely tall and intensely dark on the layered colors of 

the winter sundown; their blunt points touched 
The high tender blue, their heads were backed by the amber, the 

thick-branched columns 

Crossed flaming rose. Then Clare with the flush 
Of the solemn and glad sky on her face went lightly down to 

the river to wash her cup; and the flock 
Fed on a moment before they looked up and missed her. The 

ewe called Frannie had gone with Clare, and the others 
Heard Frannie' s hooves on the crisp oak-leaves at the edge of the 

glade. They followed, bleating, and found their mistress 
On the brink of the stream, in the clear gloom of the wood, and 

nipped the cresses from the water. Thence all returning 
Lay down together in the glade, but Clare among them 
Sat combing her hair, with a gap-toothed comb brought from 

the bundle. The evening deepened, the thick blonde strands 
Hissed in the comb and glimmered in the brown twilight, Clare 

began weeping, full of sorrow for no reason 
As she had been full of happiness before. She braided her hair 

and pillowed her head on the bundle; she heard 
The sheep breathing about her and felt the warmth of their 

bodies, through the heavy fleeces. 

In the night she moaned 
And bolted upright. "Oh come, come, 
Come Fern, come Frannie, Leader and Saul and Tiny, 



We have to go on," she whispered, sobbing with fear, and stood 
With a glimmer in her hair among the sheep rising. The halved 

moon had arisen clear of the hill, 
And touched her hair, and the hollow, in the mist from the river, 

was a lake of whiteness. Clare stood wreathed with her 

And stared at the dark towers of the wood, the dream faded 

away from her mind, she sighed and fondled 
The frightened foreheads. "Lie down, lie down darlings, we 

can't escape it." But after that they were restless 
And heard noises in the night nil dawn. 

They rose in the quivering 

Pale clearness before daylight, Clare milked her ewe, 
The others feeding drifted across the glade 
Like little clouds at sunrise wandering apart; 
She lifted up the madrone-wood staff and called them. 
"Fay, Fern, Oh Frannie. Come Saul. 
Leader and Tiny and Nosie, we have to go on." 
They went to the stream and then returned to the road 
And very slowly went north, nibbling the margin 
Bushes and grass, tracking the tender dust 
With numberless prints of oblique crossings and driftings. 
They came to Fogler's place and two ruffian dogs 
Flew over the fence: Clare screaming "Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh," 
An inarticulate wildbird cry, brandishing 
The staff but never striking, stood out against them, 
That dashed by her, and the packed and trembling ball 
Of fleeces rolling into the wood was broken. 
The sheep might have been torn there, some ewe or the lamb 
Against the great foundations of the trees, but Fogler 
Ran shouting over the road after his dogs 
And drove them home. Clare gathered her flock, the sobbing 
Throats and the tired eyes, "Fay, Fern, Oh Frannie, 
Come Leader, come little Hornie, come Saul"; and Fogler: 
"You ought to get a good dog to help take care of them." 
He eyed curiously her thin young face, 
Pale parted lips cracked by the sun and wind, 



And then the thin bare ankles and broken shoes. 

"Are you Clare Walker? I heard that you'd gone away: 

But you're Clare Walker, aren't you?" "We had a dog," 

She said, "a long time ago but he went away. 

There, Nosie. Poor Frannie. There. These poor things 

Can find their food, but what could I keep a dog with? 

But that was some years ago." He said, "Are these all? 

They're all gathered? I heard you'd thirty or forty." 

Then hastily, for he saw the long hazel eyes 

Filling with tears, "Where are you going, Clare Walker? 

Because I think it will rain in a week or two, 

You can't sleep out then." She answered with a little shudder, 

"Wherever I go this winter will be all right. 

I'm going somewhere next April." Fogler stood rubbing 

His short black beard, then dropped his hand to scratch 

The ram's forehead by the horns but Saul drew away. 

And Fogler said: "You're too young and too pretty 

To wander around the country like this. 

I'd ask you to come here when it rains, but my wife . . . 

And how could I keep the sheep here?" "Ah, no," she answered, 

"I couldn't come back." "Well, wait," he said, "for a minute, 

Until I go to the house. Will you wait, Clare? 

I'll tie up the dogs. I've got some biscuit and things . . ." 

He returned with a sack of food, and two old shoes 

A little better than Clare's. She sat on a root; 

He knelt before her, fumbling the knotted laces 

Of those she had on, and she felt his hands tremble. 

His wife's shoes were too short for the slender feet. When the 


Had been replaced, Fogler bent suddenly and kissed 
Clare's knee, where the coat had slipped back. He looked at her 


His own burning, but in hers nor fear nor laughter, 
Nor desire nor aversion showed. He said "good-by," 
And hurried away. 

Clare travelled northward, and sometimes 
Half running, more often loitering, and the sheep fed. 



In the afternoon she led them into the willows, 

And choosing a green pool of the shallow stream 

Bathed, while the sheep bleated to her from the shoals. 

They made a pleasant picture, the girl and her friends, in the 
green shade 

Shafted with golden light falling through the alder branches. 
Her body, the scarecrow garments laid by, 

Though hermit-ribbed and with boyishly flattened flanks hardly 
a woman's, 

Was smooth and flowing, glazed with bright water, the shoulders 
and breasts beautiful, and moved with a rapid confidence 

That contradicted her mind's abstractions. She laughed aloud 
and jetted handfuls of shining water 

At the sheep on the bank; the old ram stood blinking with pleas- 
ure, shaking his horns. But after a time Clare's mood 

Was changed, as if she thought happiness must end. 

She shivered and moved heavily out of the stream 

And wept on the shore, her hands clasping her ankles, 

Her face bowed on her knees, her knotted-up coils 

Of citron-colored hair loosening. The ewe 

That she called Nosie approached behind her and pressed 

Her chin on the wet shoulder; Clare turned then, moaning, 

And drew the bony head against the soft breasts. 

"Oh what will you do," she whispered laughing and sobbing, 

"When all this comes to an end?" 

She stood and stroked off 

The drops of water, and dressed hastily. They went 
On farther; now there was no more forest by the road, 
But open fields. The river bent suddenly westward 
And made a pond that shone like a red coal 
Against the shore of the ocean, under the sundown 
Sky, with a skeleton of sandbar 
Between the pond and the sea. 

When deepening twilight 

Made all things gray and made trespass safe, Clare entered 
The seaward fields with her flock. They had fed scantly 



In the redwood forest, and here on the dead grass 
The cattle had cropped all summer they could not sleep. 
She led them hour after hour under the still stars. 
Once they ran down to the glimmering beach to avoid 
The herd and the range bull; they returned, and wandered 
The low last bluff, where sparse grass labors to live in the wind- 
heaped sand. Silently they pastured northward, 
Gray file of shadows, between the glimmer and hushing moan 

of the ocean and the dark silence of the hills. 
The erect one wore a pallor of starlight woven in her hair. Be- 
fore moonrise they huddled together 

In a hollow cup of old dune that opened seaward, but sheltered 
them from the nightwind and from morning eyes. 


The bleating of sheep answered the barking of sea-lions and Clare 

Dazzled in the broad dawn. The land-wind lifted the light-spun 

manes of the waves, a drift of sea-lions 
Swung in the surf and looked at the shore, sleek heads uplifted 

and great brown eyes with a glaze of blind 
Blue sea-light in them. "You lovely creatures," she whispered. 
She went to the verge and felt the foam at her ankles. "You lovely 

creatures come closer." The sheep followed her 
And stopped in the sand with lonesome cries. Clare stood and 

trembled at the simple morning of the world; there was 

But hills and sea, not a tree on the shore nor a ship on the sea; 

an edge of the hill kindled with gold, 
And the sun rose. Then Clare took home her soul from the world 

and went on. When she was wandering the flats 
Of open pasture between the Sur Hill sea-face and the great 

separate sea-dome rock at Point Sur, 

Forgetting, as often before, that she and her flock were tres- 
In cattle country: she looked and a young cowboy rode down 

from the east. "You'll have to get off this range. 
Get out of this field," he said, "your tallow-hoofed mutton." 



"Oh," she answered trembling, "I'm going. I got lost in the 

Don't drive them." "A woman?" he said. He jerked the reins and 

sat staring. "Where did you drop from?" She answered 

With a favor-making smile, "From the south." "Who's with 

you?" "Nobody." 

"Keep going, and get behind the hill if you can 
Before Nick Miles the foreman looks down this way." 
She said to the ram, "Oh Saul, Oh hurry. Come Leader. 
Tiny and Frannie and Nosie, we have to go on. 
Oh, hurry, Fern." They huddled bleating about her, 
And she in the midst made haste; they pressed against her 
And moved in silence. The young cowboy rode on the east 
As hoping to hide the flock from Nick Miles his foreman, 
Sidelong in the saddle, and gazed at Clare, at the twisting 
Ripple of pale bright hair from her brown skin 
Behind the temples. She felt that his looks were friendly, 
She turned and timidly smiled. Then she could see 
That he was not a man but a boy, sixteen 
Or seventeen; she felt more courage. "What would your foreman 
Do if he saw us?" "He'd be rough. But," he said, 
"You'll soon be behind the hill. Where are you going?" 
She made no answer. "To Monterey?" "Oh . . . to nowhere!" 
She shivered and sought his face with her eyes. "To nowhere, 

I mean." 

"Well," he said sulkily, "where did you sleep last night? 
Somewhere?" She said with eagerness, "Ah, two miles back, 
On the edge of the sand; we weren't really in the field." 
He stared. "You're a queer one. Is that old coat 
All you've got on?" "No, no, there's a dress under it. 
But scrubbed so often," she said, "with sand and water 
Because I had no soap, it's nothing but rags." 
"You needn't hurry, no one can see you now. 
... My name's Will Brighton," he said. "Well, mine is dare." 
"Where do you live when you're at home, Clare?" "I haven't 




They rounded the second spur of the hill. Gray lupine clothed 

the north flank, a herd of cattle stared down 
From the pale slope of dead grass above the gray thicket. Rumps 
high, low quarters, they were part of the world's end sag, 
The inverted arch from the Sur Hill height to the flat foreland 

and up the black lava rock of Point Sur; 

In the open gap the mountain sea-wall of the world foam- 
footed went northward. Beyond the third spur Clare saw 
A barn and a house up the wrinkled hill, oak-scrub and sycamores. 

The house built of squared logs, time-blackened, 
Striped with white plaster between the black logs, a tall dead 

cube with a broken chimney, made her afraid; 
Its indestructible crystalline shape. "Oh! There's a house. 
They'll see us from there. I'll go back . . ." "Don't be afraid," 
He answered smiling, "that place has no eyes. 
There you can turn your sheep in the old corral, 
Or graze them under the buckeyes until evening. 
No one will come." She sighed, and then faintly: 
"Nobody ever lives there, you're sure?" "Not for eight years. 
You can go in," he said nervously: "maybe 
You haven't been inside a house a good while?" 
She looked up at his pleasant unformed young face, 
It was blushing hot. "Oh, what's the matter with the house?" 
"Nothing. Our owner bought the ranch, and the house 
Stands empty, he didn't want it. They tell me an old man 
Claiming to be God ... a kind of a preacher boarded there, 
And the family busted up." She said "I don't believe 
Any such story." "Well, he was kind of a preacher. 
They say his girl killed herself; he washed his hands 
With fire and vanished." "Then she was crazy. What, spill 
Her own one precious life," she said trembling, 
"She'd nothing but that? Ah! no! 
No matter how miserable, what goes in a moment, 
You know . . . out . . ." Her head bowed, and her hand 
Dug anxiously in the deep pads of wool 
On the shoulder of the ram walking against her side; 
When her face lifted again even the unwatchful boy 



Took notice of tears. 

They approached the house; the fence in 

front was broken but the windows and doors were whole, 
The rose that grew over the rotted porch steps was dead; yet 

the sleep of the house seemed incorruptible, 
It made Clare and the boy talk low. He dropped out of the 

saddle and made the bridle hang down 
To serve for tether. "Come round by the back," he whispered, 

"this door is locked." "What for?" "To go in," he whispered. 
"Ah no, I have to stay with my sheep. Why in the world should 

I go in to your dirty old house?" 
His face now he'd dismounted was level with hers; she saw the 

straw-colored hairs on his lip, and freckles, 
For he'd grown pale. "Hell," he said, narrowing his eyes, hoping 

to be manly and bully her: but the heart failed him, 
He said sadly, "I hoped you'd come in." She breathed, "Oh," her 

mouth twitching, 

But whether with fear or laughter no one could tell, 
And said, "You've been kind. Does nobody ever come here? 
Because I'd have to leave my poor friends outdoors, 
Someone might come and hurt them." "The sheep? 

Oh, nobody 

No one can see them. Oh, Clare, come on. Look here," 
He ran and opened a gate, "the corral fence 
Is good as new and the grass hasn't been touched." 
The small flock entered gladly and found green weeds 
In the matted gray. Clare slowly returned. The boy 
Catching her by the hand to draw her toward the house, 
She saw his young strained face, and wondered. "Have you ever 
Been, with a woman?" "Ah," he said proudly, "yes." 
But the honesty of her gaze dissolving his confidence 
He looked at the ground and said mournfully, "She wasn't white. 
And I think she was quite old . . ." Clare in her turn 
Reddened. "If it would make you happy," she said. 
"I want to leave glad memories. And you'll not be sorry 
After I'm gone?" 

The sheep, missing their mistress, 


Bleated and moved uneasily, forgetting to feed, 
While Clare walked in the house. She said, "Oh, not yet. 
Let's look at the house. What was the man's name 
Whose daughter ... he said he was God and suddenly van- 

"A man named Barclay," he said, "kind of a preacher." 
They spoke in whispers, peering about. At length Clare sighed, 
And stripped off the long brown coat. 

When they returned outdoors, 
Blinking in the sun, the boy bent his flushed face 
Toward Clare's pale one and said, "Dear, you can stay here 
As long as you want, but I must go back to work." 
She heard the sheep bleating, and said, "Good-by. 
Good luck, Will Brighton." She hurried to her flock, while he 
Mounted, but when he had ridden three strides of a canter 
Clare was crying, "Oh help. Oh help. Oo! Oo!" He returned, 
And found her in the near corner of the corral 
On hands and knees, her flock huddling about her, 
Peering down a pit in the earth. Oak-scrub and leafless 
Buckeyes made a dark screen toward the hill, and Clare 
Stood up against it, her white face and light hair 
Shining against it, and cried, "Oh, help me, they've fallen, 
Two have fallen." The pit was an old well; 
The hand-pump had fallen in, and the timbers 
That closed the mouth had crumbled to yellow meal. 
Clare lay and moaned on the brink among the dark nettles, 
Will Brighton brought the braided line that hung at his saddle 
And made it fast and went down. 

The well-shaft was so filled up 
With earth-fall and stones and rotting timbers, it was possible 

for the boy and girl to hoist up the fallen 
Without other contrivance than the looped rope. The one came 

smiiHriiiur and sobbing, Clare cried her name, 
"Oh, Fern, Fern, Fern." She stood and fell, and scrambled up to 

her feet, and plunged on three legs. The other 


Came flaccid, it slipped in the rope and hung head downward, 

Clare made no cry. When it was laid by the well-brink 
A slime of half-chewed leaves fell from its mouth. The boy 

climbed up. "While I was making your pleasure," 
Clare said, "this came. While I was lying there. What's punished 

is kindness." He touched the lifeless ewe with his foot, 
Clare knelt against her and pushed him away. He said, "It fell the 

first and its neck was broken." And Clare: 
"This was the one that would nudge my hands 
When I was quiet, she'd come behind me and touch me, I called 

her Nosie. One night we were all near frozen 
And starved, I felt her friendly touches all night." She lifted the 

head. "Oh, Nosie, I loved you best. 
Fern's leg is broken. We'll all be like you in a little while." The 

boy ran and caught Fern, and said 
"The bones are all right. A sprain I guess, a bad sprain. I'll come 

in the evening, Clare, if you're still here. 
I'm sorry." She sat with the head on her lap, and he rode away. 

After a time she laid it on the earth. 
She went and felt Fern's foreleg and went slowly up the hill; her 

small flock followed. 


Fern lagged and lagged, 

Dibbling the dust with the mere points of the hoof 
Of the hurt foreleg, and rolling up to her shepherdess 
The ache of reproachful eyes. "Oh, Fern, Oh, Fern, 
What can I do? I'm not a man, to be able to carry you. 
My father, he could have carried you." Tears from Clare's eyes 
Fell in the roadway; she was always either joyful or weeping. 
They climbed for half the day, only a steep mile 
With many rests, and lay on the Sur Hill summit. 
The sun and the ocean were far down below, like fire in a bowl; 
The shadow of the hills lay slanting up a thin mist 
Into the eastern sky, dark immense lines 
Going out of the world. 



Clare slept wretchedly, for thirst 
And anxious dreams and sorrow. She saw the lighthouse 
Glow and flash all night under the hill; 
The wind turned south, she smelled the river they had left, 
Small flying clouds from the south crossed the weak stars. 
In the morning Fern would not walk. 

Between noon and morning 
A dark-skinned man on a tall hammer-headed 
Flea-bitten gray horse rode north on the hill-crest. 
Clare ran to meet him. "Please help me. One of my sheep 
Has hurt her leg and can't walk. . . . Entiendes ingles?" 
She faltered, seeing him Indian-Spanish, and the dark eyes 
Gave no sign whether they understood, gazing through her with 

a blue light across them 
Like the sea-lions' eyes. He answered easily in English, "What can 

I do?" in the gentle voice of his people; 
And Clare: "I thought you might carry her down. We are very 

thirsty, the feed is all dry, here is no water, 
And I've been gathering the withered grasses to feed her." He 

said, "We could tie her onto the horse." "Ah, no, 
She'd be worse hurt. . . . She's light and little, she was born in 

the hills." The other sheep had followed their shepherdess 
Into the road and sadly looked up, the man smiled and dis- 
mounted among them. "Where are you going?" 
She answered, "North. Oh, come and see her. Unless you carry 


I don't know what we can do." "But it's two miles 
Down to the river." The lame ewe, whether frightened 
By the stranger and his horse, or rested at length, 
Now rose and went quietly to Clare, the hurt foreleg 
Limping but serving. Clare laughed with pleasure. "Oh, now, 
We can go down by ourselves. Come Fern, come Saul, 
Fay, Frannie, Leader . . ." She was about to have called 
The name of the one that died yesterday; her face 
Changed and she walked in silence, Fern at her thigh. 
The friendly stranger walked on the other side, 
And his horse followed the sheep. He said: "I have seen 
Many things, of this world and the others, but what are you?" 



"My name's Clare Walker." "Well, I am Onorio Vasquez. 

I meant, what are you doing? I think that I'd have seen you or 

heard of you 
If you live near." "I'm doing? I'm taking care of my sheep." She 

looked at his face to be sure of kindness, 
And said, "I'm doing like most other people; take care of those 

that need me and go on till I die. 
But / know when it will be; that's the only . . . I'm often 

afraid." Her look went westward to the day moon, 
Faint white shot bird in her wane, the wings bent downward, 

falling in the clear over the ocean cloud-bank. 
"Most people will see hundreds of moons: I shall see five. 
When this one's finished." Vasquez looked intently at her thin 

young face, turned sideways from him, the parted 
Sun-scarred lips, the high bridge of the nose, dark eyes and light 

hair; she was thin, but no sign of sickness; her eyes 
Met his and he looked down and said nothing. When he looked 

down he remembered chiefly the smooth brown throat 
And the little hollow over the notch of the breast-bone. He said 

at length, carefully, "You needn't be afraid. 
I often," he murmured shyly, "have visions. I used to think they 

taught me something, but I was a fool. 

If you saw a vision, or you heard a voice from heaven, it is noth- 
ing." She answered, "What I fear really's the pain. 
The rest is only a kind of strangeness." Her eyes were full of tears 

and he said anxiously, "Oh, never 
Let visions nor voices fool you. 
They are wonderful but we see them by chance; I think they 

mean something in their own country but they mean 
Nothing in this; they have nothing to do with our lives and 

deaths." She answered in so changed a voice that Vasquez 
Stared; the tears were gone and her eyes were laughing. "Oh, 

no, it was nothing," she said, "in the way of that. 
Visions? My trouble is a natural thing. 
But tell me about those visions." He muttered to himself 
With a shamed face and answered, "Not now." The south wind 
That drove the dust of the little troop before them 
Now increased and struck hard, where the road gained 



A look-out point over the fork of the canyon 

And the redwood forest below. The sheep were coughing 

In the whirl of wind. At this point the lame ewe 

Lay down and refused to rise, "Oh, now, now, now," 

Clare wrung her hands, "we're near the water too. We're all so 


Oh, Fern!" Vasquez said sadly, "If she'd be quiet 
Over my shoulders, but she won't." He heard a hoarse voice 
Cry in the canyon, and Clare softly cried answer 
And ran to the brink of the road. She stood there panting 
Above the pitch and hollow of the gorge, her grotesque cloak 
Blown up to her shoulders, flapping like wings 
About the half nakedness of the slender body. 
Vasquez looked down the way of her gaze, expecting 
To see some tragical thing; he saw nothing but a wide heron 
Laboring thwart wind from the shore over the heads of the red- 
woods. A heavy dark hawk balanced in the storm 
And suddenly darted; the heron, the wings and long legs waver- 
ing in terror, fell, screaming, the long throat 
Twisted under the body; Clare screamed in answer. The pirate 

death drove by and had missed, and circled 
For a new strike, the poor frightened fisherman 
Beat the air over the heads of the redwoods and labored upward. 

Again and again death struck, and the heron 
Fell, with the same lost cry, and escaped; but the last fall 
Was into the wood, the hawk followed, both passed from sight 
Under the waving spires of the wood. 

Clare Walker 

Turned, striving with the gesture of a terrified child 
To be quiet, her clenched fist pressed on her mouth, 
Her teeth against the knuckles, and her blonde hair 
Wild on the wind. "Oh, what can save him, can save him? 
Oh, how he cried at each fall!" She crouched in the wind 
At the edge of the road, trembling; the ewe called Tiny 
Crossed over and touched her, the others turned anxious looks 
From sniffing the autumn-pinched leaves of the groundling black- 



When she was quieted Vasquez said, "You love 

All creatures alike." She looked at his face inquiringly 

With wide candid brown eyes, either not knowing 

Or not thinking. He said, "It is now not far 

Down to the running water; we'd better stretch her 

Across the saddle" he nodded toward the lame ewe 

"You hold her by the forelegs and I by the hind ones, 

She'll not be hurt." Clare's voice quieted the sheep 

And Vasquez' the indignant horse. They came down at length 

To dark water under gigantic trees. 


She helped Fern drink before herself drooped eagerly 
Her breast against the brown stones and kissed the cold stream. 
She brought from the bundle what food remained, and shared it 
With Vasquez and the munching sheep. There were three apples 
From Fogler's trees, and a little jar of honey 
And crumbled comb from his hives, and Clare drew a net 
Of water-cress from the autumn-hushed water to freshen 
The old bread and the broken biscuits. She was gay with delight 
At having something to give. They sat on the bank, where 

After century of drooping redwood needles had made the earth, 

as if the dark trees were older 
Than their own mother. 

Clare answered Vasquez' question and 
said she had come from the coast mountains in the south; 

She'd left her home a long time ago; and Fogler, the farmer by 
the Big Sur, had given her this food 

Because he was sorry his dogs had worried the sheep. But yes- 
terday she was passing Point Sur, and Fern 

Had fallen into a well by the house. She said nothing of the other 
ewe, that had died; and Vasquez 

Seemed to clench himself tight: "What were you doing at Point 
Sur, it's not on the road?" "The sheep were hungry, 

And I wandered off the road in the dark. It was wicked of me 
to walk in the pasture, but a young cowboy 



Helped me on the right way. We looked into the house." He 

said, "Let no one go back there, let its mice have it. 
God lived there once and tried to make peace with the people; 

no peace was made." She stared in silence, and Vasquez: 
"After that time I bawled for death, like a calf for the cow. There 

were no visions. My brothers watched me, 
And held me under the hammers of food and sleep." 
He ceased; then Clare in a troubled silence 
Thought he was lying, for she thought certainly that no one 
Ever had desired death. But, for he looked unhappy 
And said nothing, she said Will Brighton had told her 
Something about a man who claimed to be God, 
"Whose daughter," she said, "died." Vasquez stood up 
And said trembling, "In the ruin of San Antonio church 
I saw an owl as big as one of your sheep 
Sleeping above the little gilt Virgin above the altar. 
That was no vision. I want to hear nothing 
Of what there was at Point Sur." He went to his horse 
That stood drooping against the stream-bank, and rode 
The steep soft slope between the broad butts of trees. 
But, leaving the undisturbed air of the wood 
For the rough wind of the roadway, he stopped and went back. 
"It will rain," he said. "You ought to think of yourself. 
The wind is digging water since we came down. 
My father's place is too far. There's an old empty cabin 
A short ways on." She had been crouching again 
Over the stream to drink, and rose with wet lips 
But answered nothing. Vasquez felt inwardly dizzy 
For no reason he knew, as if a gray bird 
Turned in his breast and flirted half-open wings 
Like a wild pigeon bathing. He said, "You'll see it 
Above the creek on the right hand of the road 
Only a little way north." He turned and rode back, 
Hearing her call "Good-by," into the wind on the road. 

This man was that Onorio Vasquez 

Who used to live on Palo Corona mountain 



With his father and his six brothers, but now they lived 

Up Mill Creek Canyon beside the abandoned lime-kiln 

On land that was not their own. For yearly on this coast 

Taxes increase, land grows harder to hold, 

Poor people must move their places. Onorio had wealth 

Of visions, but those are not coinable. A power in his mind 

Was more than equal to the life he was born to, 

But fear, or narrowing fortune, had kept it shut 

From a larger life; the power wasted itself 

In making purposeless visions, himself perceived them 

To have no meaning relative to any known thing: but always 

They made him different from his brothers; they gave him 

A kind of freedom; they were the jewels and value of his life. 

So that when once, at a critical time, they failed 

And were not seen for a year, he'd hungered to die. 

That was nine years ago; his mind was now quieter, 

But still it found all its value in visions. 

Between them, he hired out his hands to the coast farms, 

Or delved the garden at home. 

Clare Walker, when he was gone, forgot him at once. 

She drank a third draught, then she dropped off her shoes 

And washed the dust from her feet. Poor Fern was now hobbling 

Among the others, and they'd found vines to feed on 

At the near edge of the wood, so that Clare felt 

Her shepherdess mind at peace, to throw off 

The coat and the rags and bathe in the slender stream, 

Flattening herself to find the finger's depth water. 

The water and the air were cold now, she rubbed her body 

Hastily dry with the bleached rags of her dress 

And huddled the cloak about her, but hung the other 

Over a branch to dry. Sadly she studied 

The broken shoes and found them useless at last, 

And flung them into the bushes. An hour later 

She resumed the dress, she called her flock to go on 

Northward. "Come Fern, come Frannie. Oh, Saul. 

Leader and Hoinie and Tiny, we have to go on." 




The sky had blackened and the wind raised a dust 

When they came up to the road from the closed quiet of the 

The sun was behind the hill but not down yet. Clare passed the 

lichen-plated abandoned cabin that Vasquez 
Had wished her to use, because there was not a blade of pasture 

about it, nothing but the shafted jealousy. 
And foodless possession of the great redwoods. She saw the gray 

bed of the Little Sur like a dry bone 
Through its winter willows, and on the left in the sudden 
Sea-opening V of the fcanyon the sun streaming through a cloud, 

the lank striped ocean, and an arched film 
Of sand blown from a dune at the stream's foot. The road ahead 

went over a bridge and up the bare hill 
In lightning zigzags; a small black bead came down the lightning, 

flashing at the turns in the strained light, 
A motor-car driven fast, Clare urged her flock into the ditch by 

the road, but the car turned 

This side the bridge and glided down a steep driveway. 
When Clare came and looked down she saw the farmhouse 
Beside the creek, and a hundred bee-hives and a leafless orchard, 
Crossed by the wheeling swords of the sun. 
A man with a gray mustache covering his mouth 
Stood by the road, Clare felt him stare at the sheep 
And stare at her bare feet, though his eyes were hidden 
In the dark of his face in the shadow of the turbid light. 
She smiled and murmured, "Good evening." He giggled to him- 

Like a half-witted person and stared at her feet 
She passed, in the swirls of light and dust, the old man 
Followed and called, "Hey: Missy: where will you sleep?" 
"Why, somewhere up there," she answered. He giggled, "Eh, 


If I were you. Ho," he said joyfully, 
"If I were in your shoes, I'd look for a roof. 
It's big and bare, Serra Hill. You from the south?" 



"I've been in the rain before," she answered. She laid 

Her hand on a matted fleece. "I've got to find them 

Some feeding-place, they're hungry, they've been in the hungry 

Redwoods." He stopped and peered and giggled: "One's lame, 

But," he said chuckling, "you could go on all night 

And never muddy your shoes. Ho, ho! Listen, Missy. 

You ain't a Mexican, I guess you've had bad luck. 

I'll fix you up in the hay-shed and you'll sleep dry, 

These fellows can feed all night." "The owner," she said, 

"Wouldn't let me. They'd spoil the hay." "The owner. 

Bless you, the poor old man's too busy to notice. 

Paying his debts. That was his sharp son 

Drove in just now. They hated the old man 

But now they come like turkey-buzzards to watch him die." 

"Oh! Is he dying?" "Why, fairly comfortable. 

As well as you can expect." "I think, we'll go on," 

She murmured faintly. "Just as you like, Missy. 

But nobody cares whether you spoil the hay. 

There's plenty more in the barn, and all the stock 

'11 soon be cleared out. I don't work for his boys. 

Ho, it's begun already." Some drops were flying, and the sun 

Drowned in a cloud, or had set, suddenly the light was twilight. 

The old man waved his hand in the wind 

Over the hives and the orchard. "This place," he giggled, "meant 

the world to old Warfield: Hey, watch them sell. 
It means a shiny new car to each of the boys." He shot up the 

collar of his coat, and the huddling sheep 
Tucked in their rumps; the rain on a burst of wind, small drops 

but many. The sheep looked up at their mistress, 
Who said, feeling the drift like needles on her cheek, and cold 

Run down by her shoulder, "If nobody minds, you think, about 

our lying in the hay." "Hell no, come in. 
Only you'll have to be out in the gray to-morrow, before the 

sharp sons get up." He led her about 
By the bridge, through the gapped fence, not to be seen from the 

The hay-shed was well roofed, and walled southward 



Against the usual drive of the rain. Clare saw in the twilight 
Wealth of fodder and litter, and was glad, and the sheep 
Entered and fed. 

After an hour the old man 

Returned, with a smell of fried grease in the gray darkness. 
Clare rose to meet him, she thought he was bringing food, 
But the odor was but a relic of his own supper. 
"It's raining," he said; as if she could fail to hear 
The hissing drift on the roof; "you'd be cosy now 
On Serra Hill." He paused and seemed deeply thoughtful, 
And said, "But still you could walk all night and never 
Get your shoes wet. Ho, ho! You're a fine girl, 
How do you come to be on the road? Eh? Trouble?" 
"I'm going north. You're kind," she said, "people are kind." 
"Why, yes, I'm a kind man. Well, now, sleep cosy." 
He reached into the dark and touched her, she stood 
Quietly and felt his hand. A dog was heard barking 
Through the hiss of rain. He said, "There's that damn' dog. 
I tied him up after I let you in, 

Now he'll be yelling all night." The old man stumped off 
Into the rain, then Clare went back to her sheep 
And burrowed in the hay amongst them. 

The old man returned 
A second time; Clare was asleep and she felt 
The sheep lifting their heads to stare at his lantern. 
"Oh! What do you want?" "Company, company," he muttered. 
"They've got an old hatchet-faced nurse in the house . . . 
But he's been dying for a month, he makes me nervous. 
The boys don't mind, but Vm nervous." He kicked 
One of the sheep to make it rise and make room, 
Clare murmured sadly, "Don't hurt them." He sat in the hay 
In heavy silence, holding the lantern on knee 
As if it were a fretful baby. The fulvous glimmer 
Through one of his hands showed the flesh red, and seemed 
To etch the bones in it, the gnarled shafts of the fingers 
And scaly lumps in the skin. Clare heard the chained dog howling, 



And the rain had ceased. She reached in pitying tenderness 

And touched the old man's illuminated hand and said 

"How hard you have worked." "Akh," he groaned, "so has he. 

And gets . . ." He moved his hand to let the warm light 

Lie on her face, so that her face and his own were planets 

To the lantern sun; hers smooth except the wind-blistered lips, 

pure-featured, pitying, with large dark eyes 
The little sparkles of the reflected lantern had room to swim in; 

his bristly and wrinkled, and the eyes 
Like sparks in a bush; the sheep uneasily below the faces moved 

formless, only Saul's watchful head 
With the curled horns in the halo of light. The faint and farther 

rays of that sun touched falling spheres 
Of water from the eaves at the open side of the shed, or lost 

themselves at the other in cobwebbed corners 
And the dust of space. In the darkness beyond all stars the little 

river made a noise. The old man muttered, 
"I heard him choking night before last and still he goes on. 
It's a hell of a long ways to nothing . . . 
You know the best thing to do? Tip this in the straw," 
He tilted the lantern a little, "end in a minute, 
In a blaze and yell." She said, "No! no!" and he felt 
The hay trembling beside him. The unconscious motion of her 


Was not inward but toward the sheep. He observed 
Nothing of that, but giggled to himself to feel 
The hay trembling beside him. He dipped his hand 
And caught her bare foot; clutching it with his fingers 
He scratched the sole with his thumb, but Clare sat quiet 
In pale terror of tipping the lantern. The old man 
Groaned and stood up. "You wouldn't sit like a stone 
If I were twenty years younger. Oh, damn you," he said, 
"You think we get old? I'm the same fresh flame of youth still, 
Stuck in an old wrinkled filthy rawhide 

That soon'll rot and lie choking." She stammered, "Ah, no, no, 
You oughtn't to think so. You're well and strong. Or maybe 
At last it'll come suddenly or while you sleep, 
Never a pain." He swung up the lantern 



Before his hairy and age-deformed face. "Look at me. Pfah! 
And still it's April inside.'* He turned to go out, 
Clare whispered, "Oh! Wait." She stood wringing her hands, 
Warm light and darkness in waves flushing and veiling 
Her perplexed face, the lantern in the old man's fist 
Swinging beyond his body. "Oh, how can I tell?" 
She said trembling. "You see: I'll never come back: 
If anything I could do would give you some pleasure; 
And you wouldn't be sorry after I'm gone." He turned, 
Stamping his feet. "Heh?" He held up the lantern 
And stared at her face and giggled. She heard the sheep 
Nestling behind her and saw the old man's mouth 
Open to speak, a black hole under the grizzled thatch, 
And close again on round silence. "I'd like to make you 
Happier," she faltered. "Heh?" He seemed to be trembling 
Even more than Clare had trembled; he said at length, 
"Was you in earnest?" "I had a great trouble, 
So that now nothing seems hard . . . 
That a shell broke and truly I love all people. 
I'll . . . it's a little thing . . . my time is short." 
He stood giggling and fidgeting. "Heh, heh? You be good. 
I've got to get my sleep. I was just making the rounds. 
He makes me nervous, that old man. It's his stomach 
Won't hold nothing. You wouldn't play tricks to-night 
And the old man puking his last? Now, you lie down. 
Sleep cosy," he said. The lantern went slowly winking away, 
And she was left among the warm sheep, and thoughts 
Of death, and to hear the stream; and again the wind 
Raved in the dark. 

She dreamed that a two-legged whiff of flame 
Rose up from the house gable-peak crying, "Oh! Oh!" 
And doubled in the middle and fled away on the wind 
Like music above the bee-hives. 

At dawn a fresh burst of rain 

Delayed her, and two of the sheep were coughing. She thought 
that no unfriendly person would come in the rain, 



And hoped the old man might think to bring her some food, she 

was very hungry. The house-dog that all night long 
Had yapped his chain's length, suddenly ran into the shed, then 

Clare leaped up in fear for the sheep, but this 
Was a friendly dog, loving to fondle and be fondled, he shook his 

sides like a mill-wheel and remained amongst them. 
The rain paused and returned, the sheep fed so contentedly 
Clare let them rest all morning in the happy shelter, she dulled her 

own hunger with sleep. About noon 
She lifted her long staff from the hay and stood up. "Come Saul, 

come little Hornie, 

Fay, Fern and Frannie and Leader, we have to go on. 
Tiny, Tiny, get up. Butt and Ben, come on": 
These were the two old wethers: and she bade the dog 
"Good-by, good-by." He followed however; but at length 
Turned back from the crooked road up the open hill 
When cold rain fell. Clare was glad of that, yet she wished 
She'd had something to give him. 


She gained the blasty hill-top, 
The unhappy sheep huddling against her thighs, 
And so went northward barefoot in the gray rain, 
Abstractedly, like a sleepwalker on the ridge 
Of his inner necessity, or like 
Some random immortal wish of the solitary hills. 
If you had seen her you'd have thought that she always 
Walked north in the rain on the ridge with the sheep about her. 
Yet sometimes in the need of a little pleasure 
To star the gray, she'd stop in the road and kiss 
One of the wet foreheads: but then run quickly 
A few steps on, as if loitering were dangerous, 
You'd have pitied her to see her. 

Over Mescal Creek 

High on the hill, a brook in a rocky gulch, with no canyon, 
Light-headed hunger and cold and the loneliness unlocked 



Her troubled mind, she talked and sang as she went. "I can't eat 

the cold cress, but if there were acorns, 
Bitter acorns. Ai chinita que si, 
Ai que tu dami tu amor. Why did you 
Have to go dry at the pinch, Frannie? Poor thing, no matter. 

Que venga con migo chinita 
A donde vivo yo. 
I gave them all my bread, the poor shipwrecked people, and they 

wanted more." She trembled and said, "They're cruel, 
But they were hungry. They'll never catch us I think. 
Oh, hurry, hurry." With songs learned from the shepherd she 

came to the fall of the road into Mill Creek Canyon. 
Two of the sheep were sick and coughing, and Clare looked 

down. Flying bodies of fog, an unending fleet 
Of formless gray ships in a file fled down the great canyon 
Tearing their keels over the redwoods; Clare watched them and 

sang, "Oh, golondrina, oh, darting swallow," 
And heard the ocean like the blood in her ears. The west-covered 

sun stared a wan light up-canyon 
Against the cataract of little clouds. 

The two coughing sheep 

Brought her to a stand; then she opened their mouths and found 
Their throats full of barbed seeds from the bad hay 
Greedily eaten; and the gums about their teeth 
Were quilled with the wicked spikes; which drawn, thin blood 
Dripped from the jaw. The folds of the throat her fingers 
Could not reach nor relieve; thereafter, when they coughed, 
Clare shook with pain. Her pity poisoned her strength. 

Unhappy shepherdess, 
Numbed feet and hands and the face 
Turbid with fever: 
You love, and that is no unhappy fate. 
Not one person but all, does it warm your winter? 
Walking with numbed and cut feet 
Along the last ridge of migration 
On the last coast above the not-to-be-colonized 



Ocean, across the streams of the people 

Drawing a faint pilgrimage 

As if you were drawing a line at the end of the world 

Under the columns of ancestral figures: 

So many generations in Asia, 

So many in Europe, so many in America: 

To sum the whole. Poor Clare Walker, she already 

Imagines what sum she will cast in April. 

She came by the farmhouse 

At Mill Creek, then she wavered in the road and went to the door > 
Leaving her sheep in the road; the day was draining 
Toward twilight. Clare began to go around the house, 
Then stopped and returned and knocked faintly at the door. 
No answer; but when she was turning back to the road 
The door was opened, by a pale slight young man 
With no more chin than a bird, and Mongol-slanted 
Eyes; he peered out, saying, "What do you want?" Clare stood 
Wringing the rain from her fingers. "Oh, oh," she stammered, 
"I don't know what. I have some sheep with me. 
I don't know where we can stay." He stood in the door 
And looked afraid. The sheep came stringing down 
Through the gate Clare had left open. A gray-eyed man 
With a white beard pushed by the boy and said 
"What does she want? What, are you hungry? Take out your 


We can't have sheep in the yard." Clare ran to the gate, 
"Come Leader, come Saul." The old man returned indoors, 
Saying, "Wait outside, I'll get you some bread." Clare waited, 
Leaning against the gate, it seemed a long while; 
The old man came back with changed eyes and changed voice: 
"We can't do anything for you. There isn't any bread. 
Move on from here." She said through her chattering teeth, 
"Come Saul, come Leader, come Frannie. We have to go on. 
Poor Fern, come on." They drifted across the Mill Creek bridge 
And up the road in the twilight. "The ground-squirrels," she said, 

"hide in their holes 



All winter long, and the birds have perches but we have no place." 

They tried to huddle in the heart of a bush 
Under a redwood, Clare crouched with the sheep about her, her 

thighs against her belly, her face on her knees, 
Not sleeping, but in a twilight consciousness, while the night 

darkened. In an hour she thought she must move or die. 
"Ah little Hornie," she said, feeling with shrivelled fingers the 

sprouts of the horns in the small arched forehead, 
"Come Fern: are you there, Leader? Come Saul, come Nosie . . . 
Ah, no, I was dreaming. Oh, dear," she whispered, "we're very 
Miserable now." She crept out of the bush and the sheep fol- 
lowed; she couldn't count them, she heard them 
Plunge in the bush and heard them coughing behind her. They 

came on the road 

In the gray dark; there, though she'd meant to go north 
She went back toward the farmhouse. Crossing the bridge 
She smelled oak-smoke and thought of warmth. Grown reckless 
Clare entered the farmhouse yard with her fleeced following, 
But not daring enough to summon the door 
Peered in a window. What she saw within 
Mixed with her fever seemed fantastic and dreadful. It was 

nothing strange: 

The weak-faced youth, the bearded old man, and two old women 
Idle around a lamp on a table. They sat on their chairs in the 

warmth and streaming light and nothing 
Moved their faces. But Clare felt dizzy at heart, she thought they 

were waiting for death: how could they sit 
And not run and not cry? Perhaps they were dead already? Then, 

the old man's head 

Turned, and the youth's fingers drummed on his chair. 
One of the blank old women was sewing and the other 
Frowned and breathed. She lifted and spoke to white-beard, then 

the first old woman 

Flashed eyes like rusty knives and sheathed them again 
And sewed the cloth; they grew terribly quiet; 
Only the white beard quivered. The young man stood up 
And moved his mouth for a good while but no one 
Of those in the room regarded him. He sighed and saw 


Clare's face at the window. She leaped backward; the lamplight 
Had fed her eyes with blindness toward the gray night, 
She ran in a panic about the barren garden, 
Unable to find the gate; the sheep catching her fear 
Huddled and plunged, pricking the empty wet earth with num- 
berless hoof-prints. But no one came out pursuing them, 
The doors were not opened, the house was quiet. Clare found 

the gate 

And stood by it, whispering, "Dear Tiny. Ah, Fern, that's you. 
Come Saul," she fumbled each head as it passed the gate-post, 
To count the flock. 

But all had not passed, a man on a horse 
Came plodding the puddled road. Clare thought the world 
Was all friendly except in that house, and she ran 
To the road's crown. "Oh, Oh," she called; and Onorio 
Vasquez answered, "I rode early in the morning 
To find you and couldn't find you. I've been north and south. 
I thought I could find the track of the sheep." She answered 
Through chattering teeth, "I thought I could stand the rain. 
I'm sick and the sheep are sick." He said gravely 
"There's hardly a man on the coast wouldn't have helped you 
Except in that house. There, I think they need help. 
Well, come and we'll live the night." "How far?" she sighed 
Faintly, and he said "Our place is away up-canyon, 
You'll find it stiff traveling by daylight even. 
To-night's a camp." 

He led her to the bridge, and there 
Found dry sticks up the bank, leavings of an old flood, under 

the spring of the timbers, 
And made a fire against the creekside under the road for a roof. 

He stripped her of the dripping cloak 
And clothed her in his, the oil-skin had kept it dry, and spread her 

the blanket from under his saddle to lie on. 
The bridge with the tarred road-bed on it was a roof 
Over their heads; the sheep, when Clare commanded them, lay 

down like dogs by the fire. The horse was tethered 
To a clump of willow in the night outside. 



When her feet and her 
hands began to be warm he offered her food, 

She ate three ravenous mouthfuls and ran from the fire and 
vomited. He heard her gasping in the night thicket 

And a new rain. He went after while and dragged her 

Back to the frugal fire and shelter of the bridge. 


She lay and looked up at the great black timbers, the flapping fire- 

And draggled cobwebs heavy with dirt and water; 
While Vasquez watched the artery in the lit edge 
Of her lean throat jiggle with its jet of blood 
Like a slack harp-string plucked: a toneless trembling: 
It made him grieve. 

After a time she exclaimed 

"My sheep. My sheep. Count them." "What/' he said, "they all 
Are here beside you." "I never dreamed," she answered, 
"That any were lost, Oh no! But my sight swam 
When I looked at them in the bad light." He looked 
And said "Are there not . . . ten?" "No, nine," she answered. 
"Nosie has died. Count them and tell me the truth." 
He stood, bowing down his head under the timbers, 
And counted seven, then hastily the first two 
A second time, and said "Nine." "I'm glad of that," 
She sighed, and was quiet, but her quill fingers working 
The border of the saddle blanket. He hoped she would soon 

The horse tethered outside the firelight 
Snorted, and the sheep lifted their heads, a spot of white 
Came down the dark slope. Vasquez laid his brown palm 
Over Clare's wrists, "Lie still and rest. The old fellow from the 

house is coming. 
Sleep if you can, I'll talk to him." "Is there a dog?" she whispered 

trembling. "No, no, the old man is alone." 



Who peered under the heavy stringer of the bridge, his beard 

shone in the firelight. "Here," he shouted, "Hey! 
Burn the road, would you? You want to make people stay home 
And suck the sour bones in their own houses? Come out of that 

hole." But Vasquez: "Now, easy, old neighbor. She wanted 
Fire and a roof, she's found what you wouldn't give." "By God, 

and a man to sleep with," he said, "that's lucky, 
But the bridge, the bridge." "Don't trouble, I'm watching the 

fire. Fire's tame, this weather." The old man stood twitching 

and peering, 

And heard the sheep coughing in their cave 
Under the road. He squinted toward Clare, and muttered at 

length meekly, "Let me stay a few minutes. 
To sit by the little road-fire of freedom. My wife and my sister 

have hated each other for thirty years, 
And I between them. It makes the air of the house. I sometimes 

think I can see it boil up like smoke 
When I look back at the house from the hill above." Vasquez said 

"I have often watched that." He answered "You haven't lived in 

it. They sit in the house and feed on their own poison 
And live forever. I am now too feeble with age to escape." Clare 

Walker lifted her head, and faintly: 

"Oh stay," she said, "I wish I could gather all that are unhappy 
Before I die. But why do they hate each other?" 
"Their nature," he answered, "old women." She sighed and lay 


"I shan't grow old." "Young fellow," the old man said wearily 
To Vasquez, "they all make that promise, they never keep it. 
Life glides by and the bright loving creatures 
Eat us in the evening. I'd have given this girl bread 
And meat, but my hawks were watching me." He'd found a stone 
On the edge of the creek, the other side of the fire, and squatted 

there, his two fists 
Closing his eyes, the beard shimmering between the bent wrists. 

His voice being silent they heard the fire 
Burst the tough bark of a wet branch; the wind turned north, 

then a gust of hail spattered in the willows 

2 34 


And checked at once, the air became suddenly cold. The old man 

lifted his face: "Ah can't you talk? 
I thought you'd be gay or I'd not have stayed here, you too've 

grown old? I wish that a Power went through the world 
And killed people at thirty when the ashes crust them. You, 

cowboy, die, your joints will begin to crackle, 
You've had the best. Young bank-clerk, you've had the best, 

grow fat and sorry and more dollars? Here farmer, die, 
You've spent the money: will you bleed the mortgage 
Fifty years more? You, cunning pussy of the world, youVe had 

the fun and the kissing, skip the diseases. 
Oh you, you're an honest wife and you've made a baby: why 

should you watch him 
Grow up and spoil, and dull like cut lead? I see, my dear, you'll 

never be filled till you grow poisonous, 
With eyes like rusty knives under the gray eyebrows. God bless 

you, die." He had risen from the stone, and trampled, 
Each condemnation, some rosy coal fallen out at the fire's edge 
Under his foot as if it had been a life. "Sharp at thirty," he said. 

Clare vaguely moaned 

And turned her face to the outer darkness, then Vasquez, 
Misunderstanding her pain, thinking it stemmed 
From the old man's folly: "Don't mind him, he's not in earnest. 
These nothing- wishers of life are never in earnest; 
Make mouths to scare you: if they meant it they'd do it 
And not be alive to make mouths." She made no answer, 
But lay and listened to her own rustling pulse-beat, 
Her knees drawn up to her breast. White-beard knelt down and 

mended the fire, 
And brushed his knees. "There's another law that I'd make: to 

burn the houses. Turn out the people on the roads, 
And neither homes nor old women we'd be well off. All young, 

all gay, all moving, free larks and foolery 
By gipsy fires." His voice fell sad: "It's bitter to be a reformer: 

with two commandments 

I'd polish the world a-shining, make the sun ashamed." 
Clare Walker stood up, then suddenly sought the dark night 
To hide herself in the bushes; her bowels were loosened 


With cold and fever. Vasquez half rose to follow her, 

And he understood, and stayed by the fire. Then white-beard 

Winking and nodding whispered: "Is she a good piece? 

Hey, is she sick? I have to protect my son. 

Where in hell did she get the sheep?" Vasquez said fiercely, 

"You'd better get home, your wife'll be watching for you. 

This girl is sick and half starved, I was unwilling 

To let her die in the road." The old man stood up 

As pricked with a pin at the thought of home. "What? We're 

free men," 

He said, lifting his feet in an anxious dance 
About the low fire: "but it's devilish hard 
To be the earthly jewel of two jealous women." 
"Look," Vasquez said, "it seems to me that your house is afire. 
I see rolls of tall smoke . . ." "By God," he answered, 
"I wish it were," he trotted up to the road 
While a new drift of hail hissed in the willows, 
Softening to rain. 

When he was gone, Vasquez 

Repaired the fire, and called "Clare! Come in to shelter. 
Clare, come! The rain is ilm^n'oiio for you. The old fool's gone 


He stumbled in the dark along the strand of the creek, 
Calling "Clare, Clare!" then looking backward he saw 
The huddle of firelit fleeces moving and rising, 
And said "The sheep are scattering away to find you. 
You ought to call them." She came then, and stood by the fire. 
He heard the bleating cease, and looked back to see her 
Quieting her friends, wringing the rain from her hair, 
The fire had leaped up to a blaze. Vasquez returned 
Under the bridge, then Clare with her lips flushed 
And eyes brilliant with fever: "That poor old man, has he gone? 
I'm sorry if he's gone. 
My father was old, but after he'd plowed the hilltop I've seen 

him ride 
The furrows at a dead run, sowing the grain with both hands, 

while he controlled the colt with his knees. 



The time it fell at the furrow's end 

In the fat clay, he was up first and laughing. He was kind and 
cruel." "Your father?" he said. She answered 

"I can't remember my mother, she died to bear me, as I ... We 
kept her picture, she looked like me, 

And often my father said I was like her. Oh what's become of the 
poor old man, has he gone home? 

Here he was happy." "Yes, had to go home," he answered. "But 
you must sleep. I'll leave you alone if you like, 

You promise to stay by the fire and sleep." "Oh I couldn't, truly. 
My mind's throwing all its wrecks on the shore 

And I can't sleep. That was a shipwreck that drove us wander- 
ing. I remember all things. Your name's Onorio Vasquez: 

I wish you had been my brother." He smiled and touched her 
cold hand. "For then," she said, "we could talk 

Old troubles asleep: I haven't thought, thought, 

For a long while, to-night I can't stop my thoughts. But we all 
must die?" "Spread out your hands to the fire, 

Warm yourself, Clare." "No, no," she answered, her teeth chat- 
tering, "I'm hot. 

My throat aches, yet you see I don't cough, it was Frannie cough- 
ing. It was almost as if I killed my father, 

To swear to the lies I told after he was killed, all to save Charlie. 
Do you think he'd care, after . . . 

He was surely dead? You don't believe we have spirits? Nobody 
believes we have spirits." He began to answer, 

And changed his words for caution. "Clare: all you are saying 

Is hidden from me. It's like the visions I have, 

That go from unknown to unknown." He said proudly, 

"I've watched, the whole night of a full moon, an army of 

Come out of the ocean, plunging on Sovranes reef 

In wide splendors of silver water, 

And swim with their broad hooves between the reef and the 
shore and go up 

Over the mountain I never knew why. 

What you are saying is like that." "Oh, I'll tell you . . ." "To- 



He pleaded, remembering she'd eaten nothing and seeing 

The pulse like a plucked harp-string jiggle in her throat; 

He felt like a pain of his own the frail reserves of her body 

Burn unreplenished. "Oh, but I'll tell you: so then 

You'll know me, as if we'd been born in the same house, 

You'll tell me not to be afraid: maybe I'll sleep 

At the turn of night. Onorio that's really your name? 

How stately a name you have lie down beside me. 

I am now so changed: every one's lovely in my eyes 

Whether he's brown or white or that poor old man: 

In those days nobody but Charlie Maurice 

Seemed very dear, as if I'd been blind to all the others. 

He lived on the next hill, two miles across a deep valley, and then 

it was five to the next neighbor 
At Vicente Springs; people are so few there. We lived a long way 

south, where the hills fall straight to the sea, 
And higher than these. He lived with his people. We used to meet 

near a madrone-tree, Charlie would kiss me 
And put his hands on my breasts under my clothes. It was quite 

long before we learned the sweet way 
That brings much joy to most living creatures, but brought us 

misery at last. 


"My father," she said, 

"Had lived there for thirty years, but after he sold his cattle 
And pastured sheep, to make more money, the neighbors 
Were never our friends. Oh, they all feared my father; 
Sometimes they threatened our shepherd, a Spanish man 
Who looked like you, but was always laughing. He'd laugh 
And say 'Guarda a Walker!' so then they'd leave him. 
But we lived lonely. 

"One morning of great white clouds gliding 
from the sea, 

When I was with Charlie in the hollow near the madrones, I felt 
a pleasure like a sweet fire: for all 



My joy before had been in his pleasure: but this was my own, it 

frightened me." She stopped speaking, for Vasquez 
Stood up and left her: he went and sat by the fire. Then Clare: 
"Why do you leave me, Onorio? Are you angry now?" 
"I am afraid," he answered, "of this love. 
My visions are the life of my life: if I let the pitcher 
Break on the rock and the sun kill the stars, 
Life would be emptier than death." Her mind went its own way, 
Not understanding so strange a fear: "The clouds were as bright 

as stars and I could feel them," she said, 
"Through the shut lids of my eyes while the sweet fire 
Poured through my body: I knew that some dreadful pain would 

pay for such joy. I never slept after that 
But dreamed of a laughing child and wakened with running tears. 

After I had trembled for days and nights 
I asked Tia Livia that was our shepherd's cousin, she helped me 

keep house what sign tells women 

When they have conceived: she told me the moon then ceases 
To rule our blood. I counted the days then, 
Not dreaming that Tia Livia would spy and talk. 
Was that not strange? I think that she told the shepherd too, 
And the shepherd had warned my lover: for Charlie failed 
Our meeting time, but my father was there with a gray face. 
In silence, he didn't accuse me, we went home together. 

"I met my lover in another place. 'Oh Charlie, 

Why do you wear a revolver?* He said the mountain 

Was full of rattlers, 'We've killed twenty in a week. 

There never have been so many, step carefully sweetheart.' 

Sweetheart he called me: you're listening Onorio? 

'Step carefully by the loose stones.' We were too frightened that 

To play together the lovely way we had learned. 

"The next time that I saw him, he and my father 
Met on a bare hilltop against a gray cloud. 
I saw him turn back, but then I saw that he was ashamed 
To seem afraid of a man on the ridge of earth, 


With the hills and the ocean under his feet: and my father called 
him. What was that moan?" She stopped, and Vasquez 

Heard it far off, and heard the sap of a stick whistle in the fire. 
"Nothing," he said, "low thunder 

Far out the ocean, or the surf in the creek-mouth." "I was run- 
ning up the steep slope to reach them, the breath in my heart 

Like saw-grass cut me, I had no power to cry out, the stones and 
the broken stubble flaked under my feet 

So that I seemed running in one place, unable to go up. It was not 
because he hated my father, 

But he was so frightened. They stood as if they were talking, a 
noise of smoke 

Blew from between them, my father turned then and walked 

Slowly along the cloud and sat on the hilltop 

As if he were tired. 

I said after a time, without thinking, 

'Go home, Charlie. I'll say that he killed himself. 

And give me the revolver, I'll say it was his.' 

So Charlie did. 

But when the men came up from Salinas I told my lie 

So badly that they believed I was the murderer. 

I smelled the jail a long while. I saw the day moon 

Down the long street the morning I was taken to court, 

As weary-looking and stained as if it were something of mine. 

I remembered then, that since I came there my blood 

Had never been moved when the moon filled: what Livia'd told 

So then I told them my father took his own life 

Because the sheep had a sickness and I was pregnant. 

The shepherd and Livia swore that they saw him do it. 

I'd have been let home: 

But the fever I'd caught gathered to a bursting pain, 

I had to be carried from the courthouse to the hospital 

And for a time knew nothing. 

When I began to see with my eyes again 

The doctor said: 'The influenza that takes 

Many lives has saved yours, you'll not have a child. 

Listen/ he said, 'my girl, if you're wise. 



Your miscarriage is your luck. Your pelvis the bones down there 

Are so deformed that it's not possible for you 

To bear a living baby: no life can pass there: 

And yours would be lost. You'd better remember, 

And try not to be reckless.' I remember so well, Onorio. 

I have good reason to remember. You never could guess 

What a good reason. 

My little king was dead 
And I was too weak to care. I have a new king. 

"When I got home," she said patiently, 

"Everybody believed that I was a murderer; 

And Charlie was gone. They left me so much alone 

That often I myself believed it. I'd lead the sheep to that hill, 

There were fifty left out of three hundred, 

And pray for pardon." 

Sleep and her fever confused her brain, 
One heard phrases in the running babble, across a new burst of 

hail. "Forgive me, father, for I didn't 
Know what I was doing." And, "Why have you forsaken me, 

father?" Her mind was living again the bare south hilltop 
And the bitter penitence among the sheep. "The two men that 

I loved and the baby that I never saw, 
AH taken away." 

Then Vasquez was calling her name to break 

the black memories; she turned on her side, the flame-light 
Leaped, and he saw her face puckering with puzzled wonder. "Not 

all alone? But how can that be? " 
She sighed and said, "Oh Leader, don't stray for a while. Dear 

Saul: can you keep them here on the hill around me 
Without my watching? No one else helps me. I'll lie down here 

on the little grass in the windy sun 
And think whether I can live. I have you, dear stragglers. 

Thoughts come and go back as lightly as deer on the hill, 
But as hard to catch . . . Not all alone. Oh. 



Not alone at all. 

Indeed it is even stranger than I thought." 

She laughed and sat up. 

"Oh sweet warm sun . . . 

Are you there, Onorio? But where's the poor old man 
Who seemed to be so unhappy? I wish he hadn't gone home, 
For now I remember what I ought to tell him. I'm sadly changed 
Since that trouble and sickness, and though I'm happy 
I hardly ever remember in the nick o' time 
What ought to be said. You must tell him 
That all our pain comes from restraint of love." 
The hail had suddenly hushed, and all her words 
Were clear but hurried. "I learned it easily, Onorio, 
And never have thought about it again till now. The only 

Not to've known always. The beetle beside my hand in the grass 

and the little brown bird tilted on a stone, 
The short sad grass, burnt on the gable of the world with near 

sun and all winds: there was nothing there that I didn't 
Love with my heart, yes the hill though drunk with dear blood: 

I looked far over the valley at the patch of oaks 
At the head of a field, where Charlie's people had lived (they had 

moved away) and loved them, although they'd been 
Always unfriendly I never thought of it." Then Vasquez, for the 

first time forgetting the person a moment 
To regard the idea: "You were cut off from the natural objects 

of love, you turned toward others." "Ah," she answered 
Eagerly, "I'd always been turned to all others, 
And tired my poor strength confining the joy to few. But now 

I'd no more reason to confine it, I'd nothing 
Left to lose nor keep back. Has the poor old man gone? 
He seemed to be truly unhappy. 

Wasn't he afraid we'd burn the bridge; we ought surely 
To have drowned our fire. I was sick, or I'd have done . . . 


But old men are so strange, to want and not want, 
And then be angry." 



"He has gone," he answered. 

"Now, Clare, if you could eat something, then sleep, 
To fill the cup for to-morrow." 
"I have to tell you the rest. Why did he go? 
Was he angry at me? Oh, I feel better, Onorio, 
But never more open-eyed. 

"There was one of those great owly hawks 
That soar for hours, turning and turning below me along the 

bottom of the slope: I so loved it 
I thought if it were hungry I'd give it my hand for meat. 

"Then winter came. 
Then about Christmas time (because I'd counted the months and 

remembered Christmas) storm followed storm 
Like frightened horses tethered to a tree, around and around. 

Three men came in the door without knocking, 
Wherever they moved, water and black oil ran down. There'd 

been a shipwreck. I gave them the house, then one of them 
Found the axe and began chopping firewood, another went back 

across wild rain to the fall of the hill 
And shouted. He was so big, like a barrel walking, I ran in his 

And saw the great, black, masted thing almost on shore, lying on 

its side in the shadow of the hill, 
And the flying steam of a fire they'd built on the beach. All that 

morning the people came up like ants, 
Poor souls they were all so tired and cold, some hurt and some 

crying. I'd only," she said, "a few handfuls of flour 
Left in the house." She trembled and lay down. "I can't remem- 
ber any more." 

Vasquez made up the fire, 

And went and drew up the blanket over Clare's shoulder. 
He found her shuddering. "Now sleep. Now rest." She answered: 
"They killed a sheep. They were hungry. 
I'd grown to love so much the flock that was left. 


Our shepherd, I think, had taken them away mostly 

While I was kept in Salinas. 

I heard her crying when they threw her down, she thought I 

could save her. 
Her soft white throat. 

'That night I crept out in the thin rain at moonrise 

And led them so far away, all that were left, 

The house and the barn might hold a hundred hungry mouths 

To hunt us all night and day and could never find us. 

We hid in oak-woods. There was nothing to eat, 

And never any dry place. We walked in the gray rain in the flow- 
ing gorges of canyons that no one 

But the hawks have seen, and climbed wet stone and saw the 
storms racing below us, but still the thin rain 

Sifted through the air as if it fell from the stars. I was then much 

Than ever since then. 

"A man caught me at last, when I was too 

weak to run, and conquered my fear. 
He was kind, he promised me not to hurt the poor flock, 
But the half of them had been lost, I never could remember how. 

He lived alone; I was sick in his cabin 
For many days, dreaming that a monkey nursed me: he looked 

so funny, he'd a frill of red hair 
All around his face. 

"When I grew better, he wanted to do like 

Charlie. I knew what the doctor had said, 
But I was ashamed to speak of death: I was often ashamed in 

those days: he'd been so kind. Yet terror 
Would come and cover my head like a cold wave. 
I watched the moon, but at the full moon my fear 
Flowed quietly away in the night. 

2 44 


"The spring and summer were full of pleasure and happiness. 
Fd no more fear of my friend, but we met seldom. I went in 


From mountain to mountain, wherever good pasture grew, 
Watching the creeks grow quiet and color themselves 
With cool green moss, and the green hills turn white. 
The people at the few farms all knew me, and now 
Their minds changed; they were kind. All the deer knew me; 
They'd walk in my flock. 

"In the midst of summer, 

When the moon filled my blood failed to be moved, 
The life that will make death began in my body. 
I'd seen that moon when it was little as a chip 
Over my left shoulder, from Palos ridge 
By a purple cloud. 


"Oh, not till April," she said. 

"All's quiet now, the bitterness is past, I have made peace 
With death except in my dreams, those can't be ruled. But then, 

when I first 
Began to believe and knew it had happened ... I felt badly. 

I went back to my father's house, 
Much was broken and chopped down, but I found 
Little things that I'd loved when I was a child, hidden in corners. 

When I was drunk with crying 
We hurried away. The lambs never seemed able to live, the 

mothers were glad to give me their milk, 
We hid in the secret hills till it seemed desolate to die there. 

Tell me, Onorio, 
What month is this?" 

He answered, "Clare, Clare, fear nothing. 
Death is as far away from you as from any one. 
There was a girl (I've heard my brothers talking: 
The road-overseer's daughter) was four or five months along 
And went to a doctor: she had no trouble: 



She's like a virgin again." dare struck the earth with her hands 
And raised her body, she stared through the red of the fire 
With brilliant confused eyes. "Your face was like a devil's in the 

steamy glimmer: 
But only because you don't understand. Why, Tia Livia herself 

. . . you are too innocent, Onorio, 

Has done so ... but women often have small round stones 
Instead of hearts." "But," he answered, "if you're not able to 

bear it. Not even a priest would bid you die 
For a child that couldn't be born alive. You've lived too much 

alone, bodiless fears have become 
Giants in secret. I too am not able to think clearly tonight, in 

the stinging drift of the fire 
And the strange place, to-morrow I'll tell you plainly. My mind 

is confused 

As I have sometimes felt it before the clouds of the world 
Were opened: but I know: for disease to refuse cure 
Is self-murder, not virtue." She squatted upright, 
Wrapping the coat about her shoulders and knees, 
And said, "Have you never seen in your visions 
The golden country that our souls came from, 
Before we looked at the moon and stars and knew 
They are not perfect? We came from a purer peace 
In a more perfect heaven; where there was nothing 
But calm delight, no cold, no sickness, no sharp hail, 
The haven of neither hunger nor sorrow, 
But all-enfolding love and unchangeable joy 
Near the heart of life." Vasquez turned from the fire 
And stared at her lit face. "How did you learn 
This wonder? It is true." "I remembered it," 
She answered, "when I was in trouble." "This is the bitter-sweet 


He said, "that makes the breast of the earth bitter 
After we are born and the dear sun ridiculous. We shall return 

there, we homesick." 
"No," she answered. "The place was my mother's body before 

I was born. You may remember it a little but I've 



Remembered plainly: and the wailing pain of entering this air. 

I've thought and thought and remembered. I found 
A cave in a high cliff of white stone, when I was hiding from 

people: it was there I had the first memory. 
There I'd have stayed in the safe darkness forever; the sheep 

were hungry and strayed out, so I couldn't stay. 
I remembered again when I went home to our house and the 

door hung crazy 

On a snapped hinge. You don't believe me, Onorio, 
But after while you'll remember plainly, if some long trouble 
Makes you want peace; or being handled has broken your shame. 

I have no shame now." He answered nothing 
Because she seemed to speak from a frantic mind. 
After a moment, "No matter," she said. "When I was in my worst 

I knew that the child was feeding on peace and happiness. I had 

happiness here in my body. It is not mine, 
But I am its world and the sky around it, its loving God. It is 

having the prime and perfect of life, 
The nine months that are better than the ninety years. I'd not 

steal one of its days to save my life. 

I am like its God, how could I betray it? It has not moved yet 
But feels its blessedness in its quietness; but soon I shall feel it 

move, Tia Livia said it will nestle 
Down the warm nest and flutter like a winged creature. It shook 

her body, she said." But Vasquez, loathing 
To hear these things, labored with the sick fire 
In the steam of the wet wood, not listening, then Clare 
Sighed and lay down. He heard her in a moment 
Miserably sobbing, he went and touched her. "What is it? 
Clare? Clare?" "Ai, when will morning come? 
It is horrible to lie still," she said, "feeling 

The black of April . . . it's nothing, it's nothing . . . like a cat 
Tick tick on padded feet. Ah let me alone, will you? 
Lying quiet does it: I'll have courage in my time." 

A little later she asked for food, she ate, 

And drank from the stream, and slept. She moved in her sleep 



And tossed her arms, Vasquez would cover them again, 

But the fever seemed quieted. He crossed the stream by the 
stones in the dull fire-glimmer 

And fetched armfuls of flood-wood from under the opposite 
bridge-head. The fire revived; the earth turned past mid- 

Far eastward beyond the coasts of the continent morning troubled 
the Atlantic. 


Vasquez crouched by the fire 
And felt one of those revelations that were in his own regard 

the jewels and value of his life 
Approach and begin. First passed as always 
Since Barclay was gone, whom he had taken for incarnate God 

ancestral forms against the white cloud, 

The high dark heads of Indian migrations, going south along the 
coast, drawn down from the hungry straits and from Asia, 
The heads like worn coins and the high shoulders, 
The brown-lipped patient mouths below vulture beaks, and bur- 
nished fall of black hair over slant foreheads, 
Going up to the Mayan and the Aztec mountains, and sowing 

the coast. They swept the way and the cloud cleared, 
The vision would come: came instead a strong pause. 

A part of his mind 

Wished to remember what the rest had forgotten, 
And groping for it in the dark withstood the prepared 
Pageant of dreams. He'd read in his curious boyhood 
Of the child the mother is found incapable of bearing 
Cut from the mother's belly. Both live: the wound 
Heals: it was called the Caesarean section. But he, fearing 
Whatever thought might threaten to infringe his careful 
Chastity of mind, had quickly canceled the memory; 
That now sought a new birth; it might save Clare 
If he could think of it. 



That revived part 

Made itself into the vision, all to no purpose, 
His precious dreams were never to the point of life. 
Only the imperial name, and the world's 
Two-thousand-year and ten-thousand-miles-traveled 
Caesarean memory appeared. He imagined at first that the voice 
Cried "Ave Maria," but it cried "Ave Cxsar." 

He saw the firelight-gilded 
Timbers of the bridge above; and one of the ewes lifted her head 

in the light beside Clare sleeping; 
The smoke gathered its cloud into a floating globe and these were 

forgotten. On the globe of the earth 
The aquiline-headed Roman, who summed in his one person the 

powers and ordered science of humanity, 
Stood and possessed his orb of empire, and looked at the stars. 

Then the voice cried 
"The pride of the earth." 

But Vasquez laughed aloud, for the 

earth was a grain of dust circling the fire, 
And the fire itself but a spark, among innumerable sparks. The 

swarm of the points of light drifting 
No path down darkness merged its pin-prick eyelets into one 

misty glimmer, a millstone in shape, 
A coin in shape, a mere coin, a flipped luckpenny: but again 

Laughed out, for who was the spendthrift sowed them all over 

the sky, indistinguishable innumerable 
Fish-scales of light? They drew together as they drifted away 

no path down the wild darkness; he saw 
The webs of their rays made them one tissue, their rays that 

were their very substance and power filled wholly 
The space they were in, so that each one touched all, there was 

no division between them, no emptiness, and each 
Changed substance with all the others and became the others. 

It was dreadful to see 



No space between them, no cave of peace nor no night of quiet- 
ness, no blind spot nor no deaf heart, but the tides 

Of power and substance flood every cranny; no annihilation, no 
escape but change: it must endure itself 

Forever. It has the strength to endure itself. We others, being 
faintly made of the dust of a grain of dust 

Have been permitted to fool our patience asleep by inventing 
death. A poor comfort, he thought, 

Yet better than none, the imaginary cavern, how we all come 

To the gates of our great invention after few years. 

Though a cheat, it works. 

The speckled tissue of universes 

Drew into one formed and rounded light, and Vasquez 
Worshiped the one light. One eye . . . what, an eye? 
A dark mountain with an eye in its cliff? A coal-black stallion 
Eyed with one burning eye in the mid brow? 
Night has an eye. The poor little vision-seer 
Groaned, that he never had wit to understand visions. 
See all and know nothing. The eye that makes its own light 
And sees nothing but itself. "I am seeing Barclay again," 
He marveled, as who should say "I am seeing God: 
But what is God?" He continued gazing, 

And beads of sweat spilled from his forehead into the fire-edge 
Ashes. He saw at last, neither the eyed mountain 
Nor the stallion, nor Barclay, but his own eye 
In the darkness of his own face. 

The circuit was closed: 

"I can endure all things," he thought, "forever. I am he 
Whom I have sought. 

"And Clare loves all things 

Because all things are herself. She has killed her father 
And inherited. Her old enormous father 
Who rode the furrows full tilt, sowing with both hands 



The high field above the hills and the ocean. We kill steers for 

meat, and God 
To be atoned with him. But I remain from myself divided, gazing 

beyond the flaming walls, 
Not fortunate enough, and too faint-hearted." 

He continued gaz- 
ing across the wane of the fire at the dark 
Vision of his own face turned sideways, the light of one eye. 

Clare turned in her place and awoke and said, 
"How awfully little. Ooh, Ooh," in a dove's voice, 
And then, "I forgot I wasn't alone, Onorio: 
And here are the sheep. Have I slept a moment? 
I did have a strange dream. I went out across the starlight 
Knocking through flight after flight of the shiny balls 
And got so far away that the sun and the great earth 
And beautiful moon and all the stars were blended 
Into one tiny light, Oh terribly little, 
The flame of a pitiful little candle blown over 
In the wind of darkness, in the fear of the night. It was so tiny 
I wanted to be its comfort 

And hold it and rock it on my breast. One wee flicker 
In all the wild dark. What a dream." She turned anxiously 
To touch the sheep, fondling their heads and naming them. 
"Dear Fay, dear Fern. And here's Captain Saul. Ah bad little 


Who taught you to be so bold?" Suddenly she cried 
"Did Leader and Frannie go out did two of the sheep 
Go out lately?" But Vasquez, caught in his vision, 
Answered "You also have broken 
The fire-studded egg of heaven and we're together 
In the world outside." "Ah Ah," she cried desolately, 
"Did you lie when you counted them? When I was sick 
And my eyes failed?" She ran into the darkness outside, calling 

their names; 

The flock that remained stood up, in the edge of firelight, tremu- 
lously crying. Then Vasquez: "I hear a multitude 



Of people crying, but why do you lament and cry? You particles 

of the eye of light, if some of you 
Endure evil, the others endure good, the balance is perfect. The 

eye lives on mixed light and darkness, 
Not either alone. And you are not many but one, the eye is not 

glad nor sorry, nor the dark face 
Disquieted: be quiet, voices, and hear the real voice." Clare 

Walker came in from the dark with wide strained eyes, 
In each iris the fire reflected made a red stain, and she cried: 
"Onorio, for Christ's sake tell me, were they not with me? 
Or have they slipped out?" He turned slowly an unanswering 


Of cool, dark and deaf stone, tempered to the mood 
Of what he imagined ... or perhaps perceived. And Clare: 
"If I have slept and been dreaming while they're in danger 
Or die in the dark: and they cried for me 
In the dead night, while I slept and ate: I hope that all the 

miseries I ever feared for myself 
Will come doubled, the rain on my hair be knives of ice, the sun 

whips of fire, the death I must die 

Drawn out and dreadful like the dream of hell: Onorio, Oh come, 
Help me to find them!" He rose, passively under command in 

the shrill of her voice, muttering: "I can't 
Imagine what further's to find: yet I'll go along. 
Is there another light or another darkness?" 
"Oh," she answered, "it's black," and snatched the most eager 


Out of the fire for a torch. He with deft fingers 
Mimicking her act, but with a sleepwalker mindlessness, 
Bound fire into a bundle of sallow twigs, 
And calmly, twirling his torch to flame, followed 
The red glow of her rod-ends. They ran on the bridge and 


Up the wet road, Clare calling her flock around her 
And sobbing the names of the lost. The useless torches 
Flared in the puddles and ruts of water, and ruddied 
The plump backs of the sheep; so sanguine-outlined 
The little ridiculous procession strayed up the road 



In the lane of the trees, the great-trunked wood like storms 
Of darkness on either hand. The torches died soon, 
Then Clare stood still, desolately calling; weak dawn 
Had washed all the world gray. 

The heads of the little flock 

Suddenly and all together were turned one way, then a limping 

Came out of the wood. Clare screamed with joy, and ran and 
dropped on her knees to embrace the lean neck. "Oh Leader! 

Leader! She's safe, Onorio. Oh Leader where's Frannie?" But 
then the wound was discovered, the flap torn back 

Red from the flank and hanging from the rump, and the blood- 
caked wool. Clare moaned awhile with no words, and said, 

"When I forgot you because I was sick, when I forgot to call 
you and count you in the rain in the night: 

I wish I had died. I have nothing but these, 

Onorio, to take care of, and lose and lose. She used to go first 
always, I called her Leader: 

And now she's hurt." Onorio heard Clare's teeth clacking to- 
gether in the thin cheeks, and her breath 

Hissing between them, he answered calmly, still caught in his 
vision: "The five claws of a lion. Look, Clare. 

But don't grieve, the great river of the blood of life is always 
bursting its banks, never runs dry, 

Secret inexhaustible fountains feed it." She stared at his face and 
turned on the forest her desert eyes 

And wrung her hands. "Leader is hurt; and Frannie I think has 

They searched long; the fourth hour 
Of daylight they found the half consumed body. The head was 

not mangled, Clare fell beside it 
On the wet earth and kissed the half open eyes, 
Weeping and self-reproachful, but yet she lamented 
Less violently than Vasquez had feared. At length 
He said, "If you wish, Clare, I will fetch tools 
And bury it here." She answered faintly, "No matter. 


She feels nothing to-day, darkness nor light, 
Teeth nor the grave. Oh, I loved her well: but now, see, 
She's not living any more, Onorio . . . isn't that your name? 
What a stately name! . . . this is the one that fed me with milk 
Long after the others were dry, she was like a mother to me, 

when I might have starved. 
She loved me, I know. 

But even the udders are torn. Her name, Onorio, was Frannie." 
She turned and said, "Poor Leader. Can you come now? 
Come Fern, come Fay, come Tiny, we have to go on. 
Come Saul." 

Vasquez begged her to turn again 
And stay at his father's place in the canyon 
Until she was well. She had to go on, she answered. 
And Vasquez: "My father is withered up with old age but he'd 

be kind; and my brothers 
Would be your brothers. There's pasture for the sheep. We're 

only a sort of Indians but we can be kind. Come, Clare. 
The place is pleasant and alone, up the deep canyon, beside the 

old quarry and the kilns where they burnt the lime. 
A hundred laborers used to live there, but now the woods have 

grown back, the cabins are standing empty, 
The roads are gone. I think the old masonry kilns are beautiful, 

standing like towers in the deep forest, 
But cracked and leaning, and maidenhair fern grows from the 

cracks. The creek makes music below. Come, Clare. 
It is deep with peace. When I have to go about and work on 

men's farms for wages I long for that place 
Like some one thinking of water in deserts. Sometimes we hear 

the sea's thunder, far down the deep gorge. 
The darkness under the trees in spring is starry with flowers, 

with redwood sorrel, colt's foot, wakerobin, 
The slender-stemmed pale yellow violets, 
And Solomon's seal that makes intense islands of fragrance in 

April." "Oh, April," she said trembling, 
"How exactly it follows. How could I rest? Ah, no, 



Good-by, good-by, Onorio. Poor Leader, I am sure 
We can go a little way before dark. Come, Saul, Saul." 
She ran a few steps, panting hard. 

Vasquez perceived 

No hope of staying her: "Then I'll go back to the bridge 
And fetch my horse and my coat. I'll not leave you, Clare." 
He went slowly, heavy and amazed. His horse 
Had broken tether in the night, stung by the hailstones. 
Then Vasquez, still drunken with the dregs of his vision 
To fatalist indifference, went hunting the horse 
And found it late. He followed Clare the next morning, 
But met another vision on the road, that waved 
Impatient white hands against his passage, saying 
"If I go up to Calvary ten million times: what is that to you? 
Let me go up." Vasquez drew rein and sat staring. 
He saw beyond the vision in the yellow mud 
Prints of bare feet, dibbled about with many 
Little crowding hoof-marks; he marveled, feeling no sadness 
But lonely thoughts. 


Clare Walker had crossed the ridge and 
gone down 

To the mouth of Cawdor's Canyon. Japanese tenants 
Now kept the house; short broad-faced men who planted 
Lettuces in the garden against the creek-side 
And beans on the hill. The barns were vacant, the cattle 
Were vanished from the high pastures. The men were friendly, 
Clare begged at their hands a little oil to soften 
The bandage on Leader's wound; she'd torn her spent dress 
In strips to bind it, and went now without clothing 
But the long brown cloak. 

She went northward, and on a foreland 
Found vacant cabins around a ruined saw-mill; 
And finding sacks of dry straw with a worn blankec 
In one of the cabins, slept well and awoke refreshed 



To travel on slowly northward in the glad sunlight 
And sparkle of the sea. But the next day was dark, 
And one of the wethers died, she never knew why, 
She wept and went on. 

Near Point Lobos, by a gate 

Where Tamar Cauldwell used to lean from her white pony 
To swing the bars, the lion-stricken ewe, Leader, 
Groaned and lay down and died. Clare met much kindness there; 
She was nursed in the house, helpless, for many days, 
And the sheep were guarded and fed. The people clothed her 
And calmed her wild mind; but she was not willing to tell them 
Her griefs nor her cause of fear. They kept her by watchful 


Until she escaped, a great night of moonlight, and fled 
With her small flock. 

Far up the Carmel Valley 

The river became a brook, she watched a salmon 
Row its worn body up-stream over the stones 
And struck by a thwart current expose the bruised 
White belly to the white of the sky, gashed with red wounds, 

but right itself 

And wriggle up-stream, having that within it, spirit or desire, 
Will spend all its dear flesh and all the power it has gathered, in 

the sweet salt pastures and fostering ocean, 
To find the appointed high-place and perish. Clare Walker, in 

a bright moment's passage of anxious feeling, 
Knowing nothing of its fate saw her own fate reflected. She 

drank, and the sheep drank; they went up the valley 
And crossed, the next day, among the long-needled pines, the 

great thirsty sky-ridge. 

In the valley beyond 

Clare journeyed northward again, anxiously avoiding 
The traveled roads and hiding herself from people 
In fear that some one's force or kindness might steal her 
From the helpless flock; and later in habitual fear. 



She was seen much later, heavily swollen 

Toward child-birth, cowering from a thin April rain 

By a little fire on the San Joaquin river-bank, 

Sharing a camp of outcast men; no sheep 

Remained with her, but when she moved in the morning 

She called the names of many, Fern, Fay and Leader, 

Nosie and Saul and little Hornie and the others, 

"Dear Tiny, dear Frannie, come on, we have to go on." 

The toothless tramp bandaging his foot by the fire 

Looked up with a flicker of light in his slack face, 

And the sickly sullen boy on the other side 

Smiled without mockery. Clare had gone half a mile 

And felt a grinding pang in her back, she clung to the fence 

And saw the poplars planted along the road 

Reach dreadfully away northward. When the pain ended 

She went on northward; but after the second pain 

She crept down to the river and hid her body 

In a willow thicket. In the evening, between the rapid 

Summits of agony before exhaustion, she called 

The sheep about her and perceived that none came. 




The people buying and selling, consuming pleasures, talking in 

the archways, 

Were all suddenly struck quiet 
And ran from under stone to look up at the sky: so shrill and 


So fierce and final, a brazen 
Pealing of trumpets high up in the air, in the summer blue over 


They marveled; the soothsayers answered: 
"Although the Gods are little troubled toward men, at the end 

of each period 
A sign is declared in heaven 

Indicating new times, new customs, a changed people; the Romans 
Rule, and Etruria is finished; 
A wise mariner will trim the sails to the wind." 

I heard yesterday 

So shrill and mournful a trumpet-blast, 
It was hard to be wise. . . . You must eat change and endure; 

not be much troubled 

For the people; they will have their happiness. 
When the republic grows too heavy to endure, then Caesar will 

carry it; 
When life grows hateful, there's power . . . 


Power's good; life is not always good but power's good. 

So you must think when abundance 

Makes pawns of people and all the loaves are one dough. 

The steep singleness of passion 

Dies; they will say, "What was that?" but the power triumphs. 



Loveliness will live under glass 

And beauty will go savage in the secret mountains. 

There is beauty in power also. 

You children must widen your minds' eyes to take mountains 

Instead of faces, and millions 

Instead of persons; not to hate life; and massed power 

After the lone hawk's dead. 


That light blood-loving weasel, a tongue of yellow 

Fire licking the sides of the gray stones, 

Has a more passionate and more pure heart 

In the snake-slender flanks than man can imagine; 

But he is betrayed by his own courage, 

The man who kills him is like a cloud hiding a star. 

Then praise the jewel-eyed hawk and the tall blue heron; 

The black cormorants that fatten their sea-rock 

With shining slime; even that miner of anthills 

The red-shafted woodpecker flying, 

A white star between blood-color wing-clouds, 

Across the glades of the wood and the green lakes of shade. 

These live their felt natures; they know their norm 

And live it to the brim; they understand life. 

While men moulding themselves to the anthill have choked 

Their natures until the souls die in them; 

They have sold themselves for toys and protection: 

No, but consider awhile: what else? Men sold for toys. 

Uneasy and fractional people, having no center 
But in the eyes and mouths that surround them, 
Having no function but to serve and support 
Civilization, the enemy of man, 
No wonder they live insanely, and desire 

With their tongues, progress; with their eyes, pleasure; with 
their hearts, death. 



Their ancestors were good hunters, good herdsmen and swords- 

But now the world is turned upside down; 

The good do evil, the hope's in criminals; in vice 

That dissolves the cities and war to destroy them. 

Through wars and corruptions the house will fall. 

Mourn whom it falls on. Be glad: the house is mined, it will 


Rain, hail and brutal sun, the plow in the roots, 
The pitiless pruning-iron in the branches, 
Strengthen the vines, they are all feeding friends 
Or powerless foes until the grapes purple. 
But when you have ripened your berries it is time to begin to 

The world sickens with change, rain becomes poison, 

The earth is a pit, it is time to perish. 

The vines are fey, the very kindness of nature 

Corrupts what her cruelty before strengthened. 

When you stand on the peak of time it is time to begin to perish. 

Reach down the long morbid roots that forget the plow, 

Discover the depths; let the long pale tendrils 

Spend all to discover the sky, now nothing is good 

But only the steel mirrors of discovery . . . 

And the beautiful enormous dawns of time, after we perish. 

Mourning the broken balance, the hopeless prostration of the 


Under men's hands and their minds, 
The beautiful places killed like rabbits to make a city, 
The spreading fungus, the slime-threads 
And spores; my own coast's obscene future: I remember the 

Future, and the last man dying 



Without succession under the confident eyes of the stars. 

It was only a moment's accident, 

The race that plagued us; the world resumes the old lonely im- 

Splendor; from here I can even 

Perceive that that snuffed candle had something ... a fantastic 

A faint and unshapely pathos . . . 

So death will flatter them at last: what, even the bald ape's by- 

Was moderately admirable? 


All summer neither rain nor wave washes the cormorants' 
Perch, and their droppings have painted it shining white. 
If the excrement of fish-eaters makes the brown rock a snow- 

At noon, a rose in the morning, a beacon at moonrise 
On the black water: it is barely possible that even men's present 
Lives are something; their arts and sciences (by moonlight) 
Not wholly ridiculous, nor their cities merely an offense. 


Under my windows, between the road and the sea-cliff, bitter 
wild grass 

Stands narrowed between the people and the storm. 

The ocean winter after winter gnaws at its earth, the wheels 
and the feet 

Summer after summer encroach and destroy. 

Stubborn green life, for the cliff-eater I cannot comfort you, 
ignorant which color, 

Gray-blue or pale-green, will please the late stars; 

But laugh at the other, your seed shall enjoy wonderful venge- 
ances and suck 

The arteries and walk in triumph on the faces. 



Joy is a trick in the air; pleasure is merely contemptible, the 


Carrot the ass follows to market or precipice; 
But limitary pain the rock under the tower and the hewn 


That takes thunder at the head of the turret- 
Terrible and real. Therefore a mindless dervish carving himself 
With knives will seem to have conquered the world. 

The world's God is treacherous and full of unreason; a torturer, 

but also 

The only foundation and the only fountain. 
Who fights him eats his own flesh and perishes of hunger; who 

hides in the grave 

To escape him is dead; who enters the Indian 
Recession to escape him is dead; who falls in love with the God 

is washed clean 
Of death desired and of death dreaded. 

He has joy, but joy is a trick in the air; and pleasure, but pleasure 

is contemptible; 

And peace; and is based on solider than pain. 
He has broken boundaries a little and that will estrange him; 

he is monstrous, but not 

To the measure of the God. . . . But I having told you 
However I suppose that few in the world have energy to hear 

Have paid my birth-dues; am quits with the people. 



The ocean has not been so quiet for a long while; five night- 

Fly shorelong voiceless in the hush of the air 

Over the calm of an ebb that almost mirrors their wings. 

The sun has gone down, and the water has gone down 

From the weed-clad rock, but the distant cloud-wall rises. The 
ebb whispers. 

Great cloud-shadows float in the opal water. 

Through rifts in the screen of the world pale gold gleams, and the 

Star suddenly glides like a flying torch. 

As if we had not been meant to see her; rehearsing behind 

The screen of the world for another audience. 



Inside a cave in a narrow canyon near Tassajara 

The vault of rock is painted with hands, 

A multitude of hands in the twilight, a cloud of men's palms, no 


No other picture. There's no one to say 
Whether the brown shy quiet people who are dead intended 
Religion or magic, or made their tracings 

In the idleness of art; but over the division of years these careful 
Signs-manual are now like a sealed message 
Saying: "Look: we also were human; we had hands, not paws. 

All hail 

You people with the cleverer hands, our supplanters 
In the beautiful country; enjoy her a season, her beauty, and 

come down 
And be supplanted; for you also are human." 



At night, toward dawn, all the lights of the shore have died, 

And the wind moves. Moves in the dark 

The sleeping power of the ocean, no more beastlike than man- 

Not to be compared; itself and itself. 

Its breath blown shoreward huddles the world with a fog; no 

Dance in heaven; no ship's light glances. 

I see the heavy granite bodies of the rocks of the headland, 

That were ancient here before Egypt had pyramids, 

Bulk on the gray of the sky, and beyond them the jets of young 

I planted the year of the Versailles peace. 

But here is the final unridiculous peace. Before the first man 

Here were the stones, the ocean, the cypresses, 

And the pallid region in the stone-rough dome of fog where the 

Falls on the west. Here is reality. 

The other is a spectral episode: after the inquisitive animal's 

Amusements are quiet: the dark glory. 



The coast-road was being straightened and repaired again, 

A group of men labored at the steep curve 

Where it falls from the north to Mill Creek. They scattered and 


Behind cut banks, except one blond young man 
Who stooped over the rock and strolled away smiling 
As if he shared a secret joke with the dynamite; 
It waited until he had passed back of a boulder, 
Then split its rock cage; a yellowish torrent 
Of fragments rose up the air and the echoes bumped 
From mountain to mountain. The men returned slowly 
And took up their dropped tools, while a banner of dust 
Waved over the gorge on the northwest wind, very high 
Above the heads of the forest. 

Some distance west of the road, 
On the promontory above the triangle 
Of glittering ocean that fills the gorge-mouth, 
A woman and a lame man from the farm below 
Had been watching, and turned to go down the hill. The young 

woman looked back, 
Widening her violet eyes under the shade of her hand. "I think 

they'll blast again in a minute." 
And the man: "I wish they'd let the poor old road be. I don't 

like improvements." "Why not?" "They bring in the world; 
We're well without it." His lameness gave him some look of age 

but he was young too; tall and thin-faced, 
With a high wavering nose. "Isn't he amusing," she said, "that 

boy Rick Armstrong, the dynamite man, 
How slowly he walks away after he lights the fuse. He loves to 

show off. Reave likes him, too," 
She added; and they clambered down the path in the rock-face, 

little dark specks 
Between the great headland rock and the bright blue sea. 




The road-workers had made their camp 

North of this headland, where the sea-cliff was broken down and 
sloped to a cove. The violet-eyed woman's husband, 

Reave Thurso, rode down the slope to the camp in the gorgeous 
autumn sundown, his hired man Johnny Luna 

Riding behind him. The road-men had just quit work and four 
or five were bathing in the purple surf-edge, 

The others talked by the tents; blue smoke fragrant with food 
and oak-wood drifted from the cabin stove-pipe 

And slowly went fainting up the vast hill. 

Thurso drew rein by 
a group of men at a tent door 

And frowned at them without speaking, square-shouldered and 
heavy- jawed, too heavy with strength for so young a man, 

He chose one of the men with his eyes. "You're Danny Wood- 
ruff, aren't you, that drives the tractor?" Who smiled 

And answered "Maybe. What then?" "Why, nothing, except you 
broke my fence and you've got to fix it." "You don't say," 

He said laughing. "Did somebody break your fence? Well, that's 
too bad." "My man here saw you do it. 

He warned you out of the field." "Oh, was I warned?" He turned 
to Luna: "What did I say to you, cowboy?" 

"You say, you say," Luna's dark face flushed black, "you say 
'Go to hell.' " Woodruff gravely, to Thurso: 

"That's what I say." The farmer had a whip in his hand, a hot- 
ter man might have struck, but he carefully 

Hung it on the saddle-horn by the thong at the butt, dismounted, 
and said, "You'll fix it though." He was somewhat 

Short-coupled, but so broad in the chest and throat, and ob- 
viously all oak, that Woodruff recoiled a step, 

Saying "If you've got a claim for damages, take it to the county." 
"I'm taking it nearer hand. 

You'll fix the fence." Woodruffs companions 

Began to come in between, and one said "Wait for him 

Until he fixes it, your cows will be down the road." 

Thurso shook his head slightly and bored forward 



Toward his one object; who felt the persecuting 
Pale eyes under dark brows dazzle resistance. 
He was glad the bathers came up the shore, to ask 
What the dispute was, their presence released his mind 
A moment from the obstinate eyes. The blithe young firer 
Of dynamite blasts, Rick Armstrong, came in foremost, 
Naked and very beautiful, all his blond body 
Gleaming from the sea; he'd been one or two evenings 
A guest at the farmhouse, and now took Thurso's part 
So gracefully that the tractor-driver, already 
Unnerved by that leaden doggedness, was glad to yield. 
He'd mend the fence in the morning: Oh, sure, he wanted 
To do the right thing: but Thurso's manner 
Had put him off. 

The group dissolved apart, having made for 

a moment its unconscious beauty 
In the vast landscape above the ocean in the colored evening; 

the naked bodies of the young bathers 
Polished with light, against the brown and blue denim core of 

the rest; and the ponies, one brown, one piebald, 
Compacted into the group, the Spanish-Indian horseman dark 

bronze above them, under broad red 
Heavens leaning to the lonely mountain. 


In the moonlight two hours before Sunday dawn 

Rick Armstrong went on foot over the hill 

Toward the farmhouse in the deep gorge, where it was dark, 

And he smelled the stream. Thurso had invited him 

To go deer-hunting with them, seeing lights in the house 

He hurried down, not to make his friends wait. 

He passed under a lonely noise in the sky 

And wondered at it, and remembered the great cable 

That spanned the gorge from the hill, with a rusted iron skip 

Hanging from it like a stuck black moon; relics, 

With other engines on the headland, of ancient lime-kilns 

High up the canyon, from which they shot the lime 

To the promontory along the airy cable-way 



To be shipped by sea. The works had failed; the iron skip 

Stuck on its rusted pulleys would never move again 

Until it fell, but to make a desolate creaking 

In the mountain east-wind that poured down the gorge 

Every clear night. He looked for it and could not find it 

Against the white sky, but stumbled over a root 

And hurried down to the house. 

There were layered smells of 

horses and leather 

About the porch; the door stood half open, in the yellow slot 
Of lamplight appeared two faces, Johnny Luna's dark hollow 

Egyptian profile and Helen Thurso's 
Very white beyond, her wide-parted violet eyes looked black 

and her lips moved. Her husband's wide chest 
Eclipsed the doorway. "Here you are. I was afraid you wouldn't 

wake up. Come in," Thurso said, 
"Coffee and bacon, it will be long to lunch." A fourth in the 

room was the lame man, Reave Thurso's brother, 
Who said at parting, "Take care of Helen, won't you, Reave, 
Don't tire her out." He was not of the party but had risen to see 

them off. She answered from the porch, laughing, 
The light from the door gilding her cheek, "I'll not be the tired 

one, Mark, by evening. Pity the others." 
"Let the men do the shooting, Helen, spare yourself. Killing's 

against your nature, it would hurt with unhappy thought 
Some later time." "Ah," she answered, "not so gentle as you 

think. Good-bye, brother." 

They mounted the drooping horses and rode up canyon 
Between black trees, under that lonely creaking in the sky, and 

turned southward 

Along the coast-road to enter a darker canyon. 
The horses jerked at the bridle-hands, 
Nosing out a way for the stammering hooves 
Along the rocks of a ribbed creek-bed; thence a path upward 
To the height of a ridge; in that clear the red moonset 
Appeared between murky hills, like a burning ship 
On the world's verge. 

Thurso and Luna stealthily dismounted. 



They stole two ways down the starry-glimmering slope like 

assassins, above the black fur of forest, and vanished 
In the shifty gray. The two others remained, Armstrong looked 

Toward his companion through the high reddish gloom, and 

saw the swell of her breast and droop of her throat 
Darkling against the low moon-scarred west. She whispered and 

said, "The poor thing may drive up hill toward us: 
And I'll not fire, do you want to trade rifles with me? The old 

one that Reave has lent you is little use." 
He answered, "I guess one gun's as good as another, you can't 

see the bead, you can't see the notch." "Oh: well. 
The light will grow." They were silent a time, sitting and hold- 
ing the horses, the red moon on the sea-line 
Suddenly foundered; still the east had nothing. 

"We'd better take ourselves 
Out of the sky, and tie up the horses." She began to move, down 

the way lately climbed, the cowboy's 
Pony trailing behind her, Armstrong led Reave's. He saw her 

white shirt below him gleam in the starlight 
Like bare shoulders above the shadow. They unbridled the horses 

and tethered them to buckthorn bushes, and went back 
Into the sky; but lay close against the ridge to be hidden, for a 

cloud whitened. Orion and Sirius 
Stood southward in the mid heaven, and Armstrong said, 
"They're strange at dawn, see, they're not autumn stars, 
They belong to last March." "Maybe next March," she answered 
Without looking. "Tell me how you've charmed Reave 
To make him love you? He never has cared for a friend before, 
Cold and lonely by nature. He seems to love you." 
"Why: nothing. If he lacks friends perhaps it's only 
Because this country has been too vacant for him 
To make choices from." "No," she answered, "he's cold, 
And all alone in himself. Well. His goodness is strength. 
He's never set his mind on anything yet 

But got it with a strong hand. His brother, you met this morning, 
Is very different, a weak man of course, 



But kindly and full of pity toward every creature, but really at 


As cold as Reave. I never loved hunting, and he's 
Persuaded me to hate it. Let him persuade 
Reave if he could!" Armstrong said, "Why did you come then?" 
"Ah? To watch things be killed." 

They heard the wind 

Flustering below, and felt the sallow increase of clearness 
On grass-blades, and the girl's face, and the far sea, 
A light of visions, faint and a virgin. One rifle-shot 
Snapped the still dawn; Armstrong cradled his gun 
But nothing came up the hill. The cloud-line eastward 
Suddenly flushed with rose-color flame, and standing 
Rays of transparent purple shadow appeared 
Behind the fired fleece. Helen Thurso sighed and stood up, 
"Let's see if we can't lead one of the horses down, 
Now light has come, to bring up the corpse." "The . . . f o^ 

"The meat," she said impatiently, "the killed thing. It's a hard 


"You think they got it?" "Couldn't fail; but other years 
They've taken two in that trap." Nearly straight down, 
At the edge of the wood, in the pool of blue shade in the cleft 

The two men were seen, one burdened, like mites in a bowl; and 

Helen with a kind of triumph: "Look down there: 
What size Reave Thurso is really: one of those little dirty black 

ants that come to dead things could carry him 
With the deer added." 

They drove a horse down the headlong 

pitch; the sun came up like a man shouting 
While they climbed back, then Helen halted for breath. Thurso 

tightened the lashings under the saddle, 
That held his booty on the pony's back, and said to Armstrong, 

"That tree that stands alone on the spur, 



It looks like a match: its trunk's twenty feet through. The biggest 

redwoods left on the coast are there, 
The lumbermen couldn't reach them." 

Johnny Luna, when they 

reached the ridge, 
Was sent home leading his horse, with the buck mounted. The 

others rode east, the two men ahead, and Helen 
Regarding their heads and shoulders against the sharp sky or 

the sides of hills; they left the redwood canyons 
And rode a long while among interminable gray ranges bushed 

on the north with oak and lupin; 
Farther they wandered among flayed bison-shaped hills, and rode 

at noon under sparse bull-pines, 
And so returned, having seen no life at all 
Except high up the sun the black vultures, 
Some hawks hunting the gorges, and a far coyote. 
In the afternoon, nearing toward home, it was Helen 
Who saw five deer strung on a ridge. "Oh. Look. 
So I've betrayed them," she said bitterly. Reave said to Arm- 
"Your shot: the buck to the north," and while he spoke fired, but 

the other 

Had raised his cheek from the rifle-stock to look 
At Helen angrily laughing, her face brilliant 
In the hard sunlight, with lakes of deep shade 
Under the brows and the chin; when he looked back 
The ridge was cleared. "Why didn't you let him have it? 
You'd such an easy shot," Thurso said, 
"Against the cloud, mine was among the bushes, 
I saw him fall and roll over." "Be very happy," 
Helen said. "He was hard hit, for he ran down hill. 
That makes you shine." 

They labored across the gorge 
And climbed up to the ridge. A spongy scarlet thing 
Was found at the foot of a green oak-bush and Helen 
Came and saw it. "He was hit in the lung," Reave said, 
"Coughed up a froth of blood and ran down hill. 



I have to get him." "It looks like a red toadstool: 

Red scum on rotten wood. Does it make you sick? 

Not a bit: it makes you happy." "Why do you come hunting, 


If you hate hunting? Keep still at least. As for being happy: 
Look where I have to go down." He showed her the foamy spots 

of blood, on the earth and the small leaves, 
Going down a steep thicket that seemed impassable. She an- 
swered, "Let the poor thing die in peace." "It would seem 

a pity," 
He answered, "to let him suffer; besides the waste." Armstrong 

looked down and said, "He'll be in the creek-bed. 
I'll go down there and work up the gulch, if you go down here." 

"You'd never find him without the blood-trail," 
Reave answered. Then Helen suddenly went back and touched 

the foam of blood on the ground, dipping four fingers, 
And returned and said, "I was afraid to do it, so I did it. Now 

I'm no better than you. Don't go down. 
Please, Reave. Let's hurry and go home. I'm tired." Reave said 

to Armstrong, "That would be best, if you'd take her home. 
It's only a mile and a half, help her with the horses, won't you? 

Take mine too. I'll hang the buck in a tree 
Near where I find him, and come fetch him to-morrow." "If you 

want," Armstrong said. Helen clenched 
Her blood-tipped fingers and felt them stick to the palm. "All 

right. I'll do 
What you've chosen," she said with smoothed lips. "Mark wins, 

he said I'd be tired. But he was wrong," 
Opening her hand, regarding the red-lined nails, 
"To think me all milk and kindness." Thurso went down 
The thicket; and Helen: "Nothing could turn him back. 
He's never set his mind on anything yet 
But snuffled like a bloodhound to the bitter end." They heard 

the branches 

Breaking below, and returned by the open slope 
To the horses across the creek. 



They rode softly 

Down the canyon; Helen said, "I'm not tired. 
Do you ever think about death? I've seen you play with it, 
Strolling away while the fuse fizzed in the rock." 
"Hell no, that was all settled when they made the hills.'* 
"Did you notice how high he held his bright head 
And the branched horns, keen with happiness? 

Nothing told him 
That all would break in a moment and the blood choke his throat. 

I hope that poor stag 

Had many loves in his life." He looked curiously, 
A little moved, at her face; too pale, like a white flame 
That has form but no brilliance in the light of day; 
The wide violet eyes hollowed with points of craving darkness 
Under the long dark lashes; and the charcoal mark 
Across her slightly hollowed cheek, where a twig had crossed it 
When they rode the burnt hillside. He said: "I ought 
ToVe gone with Reave, it doesn't seem fair to let him 
Sweat alone in that jungle." "He enjoys toil. 
You don't know him yet. Give him a blood-trail to follow, 
That's all he wants for Christmas. What he's got's nothing to 


His game's the getting. But slow, slow: be hours yet. 
From here we can choose ways, and though it's a good deal 

There's daylight left, we'll go by the head of the hill: up there 

you can see the whole coast 
And a thousand hills. Look," she said laughing, 
"What the crooked bushes have done," showing her light shirt 
Torn at the breast, and a long red scratch 
Under the bright smooth breast. He felt in his mind 
A moving dizziness, and shifted his body backward 
From the saddle-horn. 

A curl of sea-cloud stood on the head of the hill 
Like a wave breaking against the wind; but when they reached 
it, windows of clearness in it were passing 



From the northwest, through which the mountain sea-wall looked 
abrupt as dreams, from Lobos like a hand on the sea 

To the offshore giant at Point Sur southward. Straight down 
through the coursing mists like a crack in the mountain sea- 

Mill Creek Canyon, like a crack in the naked root of a dead pine 
when the bark peels off. The bottom 

Of the fissure was black with redwood, and lower 

Green with alders; between the black and the green the painted 
roof of the farmhouse, like a dropped seed, 

Thurso's house, like a grain of corn in the crack of a plank, where 
the hens can't reach it. 

Cloud steered between; 

Helen Thurso said "What if the rut is a rock canyon, 
Look how Fm stuck in a rut: do I have to live there? 
And Reave's old mother's like a white-headed hawk. 
Your job here's nearly finished, where will you go?" 
"I haven't thought: all places are like each other: 
Maybe Nevada in the spring. 
There's work all over." "I," she said, trembling; "it seems cold 

up here. 

I hate the sea-fog. Now let's look east." They had tied 
The horses to the highest bushes on the north slope, 
And walked on the open dome of the hill, they crossed it 
And the east was clear; the beautiful desolate inhuman range 

beyond range of summits all seen at once, 
Dry bright and quiet and their huge blue shadows. Helen said 


"He's down there somewhere. It's that deer's blood. 
It made me drunk, it was too red I thought. 
Life is so tiny little, and if it shoots 
Into the darkness without ever once flashing?" 
They turned back to the dome-top under the cloud. 
"You're tired, Helen." "I'll not let the days of my life 
Hang like a string of naughts between two nothings. 
Wear a necklace of round zeros for pearls; 



I'm not made that way. Think what you please. Shall we go down 

"The cloud has come all around us," he answered, seeing the dis- 
tilled drops of the cloud like seed-pearls 

Hung in her hair and on the dark lashes. He turned to go down 
to the horses, she said "I have seen dawn with you, 

The red moonset and white dawn, 

And starlight on the mountain, and noon on burnt hills where 
there was no shadow but a vulture's, and that stag's blood: 
I've lived with you 

A long day like a lifetime, at last I've drawn something 

In the string of blanks." She lifted her face against his shoulder 
and said "Good-bye." He said "I'm Reave's friend," 

And kissed her good-bye seeing she desired it, her breasts bur- 
rowed against him and friendship forgot his mind, 

With such brief wooing they stirred the deep wells of pleasure. 

She lay but half quieted, still hotly longing, 
Her eyes morbidly shuttered like the sleep of fever showed 

threads of the white and faint arcs of the crystalline 
Violet irises, barred across by the strong dark lashes; the night 

of the lids covered the pupils, 
Behind them, and under the thick brown hair and under the 

cunning sutures of the hollow bone the nerve-cells 
With locking fibrils made their own world and light, the multi- 
tude of small rayed animals of one descent. 
That make one mind, imagined a mountain 
Higher than the scope of nature, predominant over all these edges 

of the earth, on its head a sacrifice 
Half naked, all flaming, her hair blown like a fire through the 

level skies; for she had to believe this passion 
Not the wild heat of nature, but the superstitiously worshipped 

spirit of love, that is thought to burn 
All its acts righteous. 


While Helen adorned the deed with the 

dream it needed, her lover meanwhile 
Explored with hands and eyes the moulded smoothness through 

the open clothing, reviving his spent desire 
Until they were joined in longer-lasting delight; her nerve-cells 

intermitted their human dream; 
The happy automatism of life, inhuman as the sucking heart of 

the whirlwind, usurped the whole person, 
Aping pain, crying out and writhing like torture. 

They rose and 

went down to the horses; 
The light had changed in the sea-cloud, the sun must be near 

setting. When they were halfway down the mountain 
The whole cloud began to glow with color like a huge rose, a 

forest of transparent pale crimson petals 
Blowing all about them; slowly the glory 
Flared up the slope and faded in the high air. 


They rode 
through pale twilight 

And whispered at the farmhouse door inarticulate leave-takings. 
Helen went in; Armstrong unsaddled the horses 
Ahd walked heavily up canyon and crossed the hill. 

Helen said, "Reave went after a wounded deer 

And sent me home. He hasn't come home yet?" 

Reave's mother said "We've not seen him," steadily watching her 

Across the lamplight with eyes like an old hawk's, 

Red-brown and indomitable, and tired. But if she was hawk-like 

As Helen fancied, it was not in the snatching look 

But the alienation and tamelessness and sullied splendor 

Of a crippled hawk in a cage. She was worn at fifty 

To thin old age; the attritions of time and toil and arthritis 

That wear old women to likeness had whetted this one 

To difference, as if they had bitten on a bronze hawk 

Under the eroded flesh. 



Helen avoided her eyes 

And said to the other in the room, "Ah, Mark, you guessed right. 
I'm tired to death, must creep up to bed now." The old woman: 
"So you came home alone? That young Armstrong 
Stayed with Reave." Helen faltered an instant and said, 
"No, for Reave sent him with me, wishing his horse 
To be taken home. Mr. Armstrong stopped 
By the corral, he was unsaddling the horses I think, 
But I was too tired to help him. My rifle, Mark, 
Is clean: I minded your words." 

An hour later the heavy tread 

of a man was heard on the steps 
And the fall of a fleshy bulk by the door, crossed by the click of 

hooves or antlers, and Reave came in, 
His shirt blood-stained on the breast and shoulders. "I got him," 

he said. "It seemed for awhile I'd be out all night. 
By luck I found him, at twilight in a buckeye bush. Where's 

Helen, gone to bed?" "She seemed flurried with thoughts," 
His mother answered, and going to the door that led to the 

kitchen she called, "Olvidia," 
Bring in the supper." "Well, yes," Reave said. "I must first hang 

up the carcass and wash my hands." "Olvidia," 
His mother called to the kitchen, "will you tell Johnny: is Johnny 

there? Tell him to fetch the meat 
From the door-step and hang it up with the other." Mark said, 

"How far, Reave, did you carry it?" "Two miles or so. 
Rough country at first; I held it in front of me to butt the brush 

with." "Why, what does it weigh?" "Oh," he said, "a young 

About Helen's weight." "You are strong," his mother said, "that's 

good: but a fool." "Well, mother, I might have hung it 
In a tree and gone up with a horse to-morrow; I shouldered it 

Mark, enviously: 

"You've seen many green canyons and the clouds on a hundred 



My mind has better mountains than these in it, 

And bloodless ones." The dark Spanish-Indian woman 

Olvidia took Reave's empty plate and the dish, 

And Mrs. Thurso said, "Reave, you've big arms, 

And ribs like a rain-barrel, what do they amount to 

If the mind inside is a baby? Our white-face bull's 

Bigger and wiser." "What have I done?" "I'll never say 

Your young Helen's worth keeping, but while you have her 

Don't turn her out to pasture on the mountain 

With the yellow-haired young man. Those heavy blue eyes 

Came home all enriched." Reave laughed and Mark said bitterly, 

"Mother, that's mean. 
You know her too well for that. Helen is as clear as the crystal 

sky, don't breathe on her." "You," she answered fondly. 
Reave smiled, "I trust Rick Armstrong as I do my own hand." 

"It shames my time of life," 
She answered, "to have milky-new sons. What has he done for 


To be your angel?" "Why," he said, "I like him." "That's gen- 

And rare in you. How old is he?" "My age. Twenty-four." 
"Oh, that's a better reason to trust him." "Hm?" "You're the 

same age." 
"That's no reason." "No," she answered. 


Toward noon the next day 

Helen was ironing linen by the kitchen stove, 

A gun-shot was heard quite near the house, she dropped the iron 

And ran outdoors and met Mark. "What was that shot?" "Don't 
go up there, Helen." "Why not, why not," she stammered, 

"Why not," the flush of the stove-heat graying on her cheek. 
"Reave has put poor old Bones out of pain." "Oh, that!" 

Laughing and trembling, "Your funeral face. I thought some- 
thing had happened to someone. Let the old dog sleep." 

She went up hill to the screen of seawind-stunted laurel and oak, 
where Reave was already spading 



Dust into the gape of a small grave. "You've done for poor old 

Bones, have you? You knew I loved him, 
So you took him off." "A pity you came just now, Helen. He 

died in a moment. If we'd used this mercy 
Two or three months ago we'd have saved pain." She answered, 

quivering with anger, "You do it on the sly 
And call it mercy. Ah, killing's your pleasure, your secret vice." 

"I'll wish you sunnier pleasures: and a little 
Sense in your head: he was made of miseries: you've seen him 


To be helped, and wonder at us when the pain stayed. 
I've helped him now." "Will you do as much for yourself 
When life dirties and darkens? Your father did." 
"No, I will not," he said, shovelling the dust. 
"What's that said for? For spite?" "No, Reave. 
I was wondering. For I think it's reasonable. 
When the flower and fruit are gone, nothing but sour rind, 
Why suck the shell? I think your father was right." 
"Drop a little silence on him," Reave answered. 
"We may help out the beasts, but a man mustn't be beaten. 
That was a little too easy, to pop himself off because he went 


I was ten years old, I tried not to despise the soft stuff 
That ran away to the dark from a touch of trouble: 
Because the lime-kilns failed and the lumber mill 
Ran out of redwood. 

My mother took up his ruins and made a farm; 
She wouldn't run away, to death or charity. Mark and I helped. 
We lost most of the land but we saved enough." 
"Think of one man owning so many canyons: 
Sovranes, Granite," she counted on her fingers, "Garapatas, Palo 

Rocky Creek, and this Mill Creek." "Oh, that was nothing, the 

land was worth nothing 

In those days, only for lime and redwood." She answered, 
"You needn't despise him, Reave. My dad never owned any- 
While I worked in a laundry and while I crated fruit 



He ate my wages and lived as long as he could 

And died crying." "We're proud of our fathers, hm? 

Well, he was sick a long time," Reave said, patting 

The back of the spade on the filled grave; "but courage might 


While the lungs rot. I think it might. You never 
Saw him again, did you?" "How saw him?" "We used to see 

Often in the evenings." "What do you mean, Reave?" 

"Why: in the evenings. 
Coming back to stare at his unfinished things. 
Mother still often sees him." Helen's face brightening 
With happy interest, "Oh where?" she said. "On the paths; 
Looking up at that thing, with his mouth open." 
Reave waved his hand toward the great brown iron skip 
Hanging on its cable in the canyon sky, 
That used to carry the lime from the hill, but now 
Stuck on dead pulleys in the sky. "It ought to be taken down 
Before it falls. Fll do it when we've done the plowing." 
Helen said, "Does he ever speak?" "Too ashamed of himself. 

I spoke to him once: 
I was carrying firewood into the house, my arms were full. He 

worked a smile on his face and pointed 
At the trolley up there." "Do you really believe," she said, "that 

your father's ghost?" "Certainly not. Some stain 
Stagnates here in the hollow canyon air, or sticks in our minds. 

How could too weak to live 
Show after it died?" "I knew," she answered, blanching again 

with capricious anger, "you'd no mercy in you, 
But only sudden judgment for any weak thing; 
And neither loving nor passionate; dull, cold and scornful. I used 

to keep a gay heart in my worst days 
And laugh a little: how can I live 
Where nothing except poor Mark is even half human, you like 

a stone, hard and joyless, dark inside, 
And your mother like an old hawk, and even dirty Olvidia and 

Johnny Luna, dark and hollow 



As the hearts of jugs. The dog here in the ground Oh but how 

carefully you scrape the blood-lake 

Had loving brown eyes: so you killed him: he was sometimes 
joyful: it wouldn't do. You killed him for that." He an- 
Staring, "Were you born a fool? What's the matter, Helen?" 

"If I had to stay here 

I'd turn stone too: cold and dark: I'd give a dollar 
For a mirror now, and show you that square face of yours 
Taken to pieces with amazement: you never guessed 
Helen's a shrew. Oh, what do you want her for? 
Let her go." She left him; and when he came in at noon 
Spoke meekly, she seemed to have wept. 


In the evening, in 

Helen's presence, 

Reave's mother said, "Did that sand-haired young man 
Find you, Reave, when he came this afternoon? 
He didn't come to the house." "Who?" "That road-worker, 
Arnfield." "Rick Armstrong?" "Most likely: the one I warned 


Not to pasture your heifer with." "He was here?" "No, 
Not here. I saw him come down the hill, and Helen 
Went out to meet him." Mark Thurso looked up 
From the book he'd been reading, and watched his mother 
As a pigeon on a rock watches a falcon quartering 
The field beyond the next fence; but Helen suddenly: 
"Now listen, Mark. I'm to be framed, ah? 
I think so. I never liked her." The old woman said, 
"Did you say something?" "Not yet," she answered. Reave made 

a mocking 

Noise in his throat and said, "Let them alone. 
No peace between women. 
This morning I sent Luna over the hill 

With one of the bucks we killed, no doubt my friend came over 
At quitting-time to say thank-you: why he didn't find me's 
Less clear, but watch the women build it between them 



To a big darkness." "Not I," Helen said, 

And dipped her needle two or three careful stitches 

In the cloth she was mending, then looked up suddenly 

To see who watched her. "If I'd seen him," she said, "I'd have 

spoken to him. 
I am not sick with jealousy of your new friend. But he was 

probably not here; the old eyes that make 
A dead man's phantom can imagine a live one's." The old woman: 

"When you saw him you ran to meet him; I sent Olvidia 
To see if the speckled hen had stolen a nest in the willows. She 

walked down there, what she saw amazed her. 
I've not allowed her to tell me though she bubbles with it. Your 

business, Reave: ask her. Not mine: I'm only 
The slow man's mother." Helen stood up, trembling a little and 

smiling, she held the needle and the spool 
And folded the cloth, saying "Your mother, Reave, 
Loves you well: too well: you and I honor her for that. She has 

hated me from the day she heard of me, 
But that was jealousy, the shadow that shows love's real: nothing 

to resent. But now you seem very friendly 
With that young man too: she can't bear to yield you again, it 

cracks the string of her mind. No one can fancy 
What she's plotted with the kitchen woman . . ." Mark Thurso 

said with lips that suddenly whitened: "7 met Armstrong. 
I told him you'd ridden up the high pasture, for so I believed. 

He asked me to thank you warmly 
For the buck you sent: I forgot to tell you. I was with him while 

he was here, and when he went back I hobbled 
Some ways up hill." The old woman moved her lips but said 

nothing; but Reave: "Here: what's the matter, 
Brother? You were with me constantly all afternoon." "But an 

hour," Mark said. "Hm? Five minutes." Then Helen, 
Looking from the one to the other: "If I am hated, I think I am 

loved too. I'd something to say . . . 
Oh: yes: will you promise, Reave, promise Olvidia 
You'll give her, for telling the perfect truth, whatever your 

mother has promised her for telling lies: then I'm safe. 



Call her and ask her." He answered, "She'll sleep in hell first. 

Here's enough stories 
Without hers in the egg-basket. Do you think it was Armstrong 

you saw, mother? I trust Rick Armstrong 
From the bright point to the handle." Helen said, "Ah, Mark, 
You'd never imagine I'd be satisfied with that. 
I have to be satisfied with that." "Why not?" Reave said. 
And she: "If it was nothing worse than killing to fear 
I'd confess. All kinds of lies. I fear you so much 
I'd confess ... all kinds of lies ... to get it over with," 
She said, making a clicking noise in her throat 
Like one who has drunk too much and hiccoughs, "only 
To get it over with: only, I haven't done anything. 
This terror, Mark, has no reason, 
Reave never struck nor threatened me, yet well I know 
That while I've lived here I've always been sick with fear 
As that woman is with jealousy. Deep in me, a black lake 
His eyes drill to, it spurts. Sometime he'll drill to my heart 
And that's the nut of courage hidden in the lake. 
Then we'll see. I don't mean anything bad, you know: I'm very 

And wish to think high, like Mark. Olvidia of course is a hollow 

liar. May I go now? I'm trembling-tired: 
If you'll allow me to go up to bed? But indeed I dare not 
While you sit judging." She looked at Mark and slightly 
Reached both her hands toward him, smiled and went out. 
But in the little dark hallway under the stair, 
When she hastened through it in the sudden darkness, 
The door being neither open nor shut passed edgewise 
Between her two groping hands, her cheek and brow 
Struck hard on the edge. 

Her moan was heard in the room of 


Where they had been sitting silent while she went out, 
An4 when she had gone Mark Thurso had said, "Mother: 
You've done an infamous thing." "They might play Jack and 




All they please," she answered, "but not my son 

For the fool card in the deck," the shock of struck wood was 


And Helen's hushed groan: Mark, dragging his lameness, reeled 
Swiftly across the room saying "What has she done?" 
He groped in the passage and spoke tenderly, then Reave 
Went and brought Helen to the lamplight; a little blood 
Ran through her left eye to her lips from the cut eyebrow. 
The implacable old woman said "She's not hurt. 
Will you make a fuss?" Helen said, "The wood of your house 
Is like your mother, Reave, hits in the dark. 
This will wash off." She went to the kitchen and met 
Olvidia who'd been listening against the door, 
Then Helen, moaning "I'm ringed with my enemies," turned 
To flee, and turned back. "I will take it now. My husband, Olvidia, 
Is ready to kill me, you see. I have been kind to you 
Two or three times. Have you seen any unusual 
Or wicked meeting to-day?" The Indian woman, 
Dreading Reave's anger and seeing the blood, but hardly 
Understanding the words, blanked her dark face 
And wagged her head. "Don't know. What you mean, wicked? 
I better keep out of this." "A dish of water, Olvidia. 
Be near me, Mark. Reave: will you ask her now?" 
He said "Wash and be quiet." Helen said, "Oh Olvidia, 
Someone has made him angry at you and me. 
Look in my eyes. Tell no bad stories . . . lies, that is ... 
Did you see anything when you looked for eggs 
In the willows along the creek?" Olvidia folded 
Her lips together and stepped backward, then Helen 
Sighed, dabbling her cheek with water. "It hurts. I think 
It will turn black." Reave suddenly shouted "Answer." 
Olvidia, retreating farther: "What you want of me? 
I find no eggs." Mark said, "Come, Helen, Oh come. I've watched 

innocence tormented 
And can no more. Go up and sleep if you can, I'll speak for you, 

to-morrow all this black cloud of wrong 
Will be melted quite away in the morning." Reave said, "Don't 

fawn on her, you make me mad. Women will do it. 



But why praise 'em for it?" Helen, meekly: "I am very tired and 

helpless and driven to the edge. Think kindly of me, 
Mark, I believe I shall be much hated. Your mother . . . 
This is all. Light me a candle." At the foot of the stair 
She closed the door, and silently tip-toed through 
The passage and the other room to the door of the house, 
There pinched the wick, and praying for no wind 
To make a stir in the house, carefully opened 
The outer door and latched it behind her. 

She traversed the hill, 

And at the road-men's camp, plucking at the fly 
Of a lit tent, thought momently it was curious 
She stood among so many unrestrained men 
Without fear, yet feared Reave. "I must see Rick Armstrong 
This moment: which tent?" They laid their hands of cards 
Carefully face down on the packing-box. 
"Why, ma'am, I can't say exactly," but she had run off 
To another lamp of shining canvas and found him. 
"Let me stand into the light." She showed her cut brow 
A little bleeding again with hurry in the dark, 
And the purpling bruise. "What Reave did. Your friend Reave. 
His mother spied and told on us. What will you do?" 
"By God!" "Oh," she said, "that's no good. 
How could you keep me here? Borrow a car, 
There are cars here." He said "I'll take care of you." She 


Beating her fists together, breathed long and said: 
"If you choose to stand here and talk among the men listening 
It is not my fault. I say if you and these men could stop him when 

he comes 
You can'tto-night, to-night, in an hour nothing can stop him: 

he'd call the sheriff to-morrow and have me 
Like a stolen cow, nothing but ridiculous, a mark for children to 

hoot at, crying in my hair, probably 
Led on a rope. Don't you know him? / do. Oh my lover 
Take me to the worst hut at the world's end and kill me there, 

but take me from here before Reave comes. 



I'd go so gladly. And how could you bear to face him, he thought 

you his faithful friend, for shame even? 
Oh hurry, hurry!" 


In the desert at the foot of sun-rotted hills 
A row of wooden cabins flanks a gaunt building 
Squatted on marbly terraces of its own excrement, 
Digested rock from which the metal has been sucked, 
Drying in the rage of the sun. Reave Thurso stopped 
At the first cabin, a woman came out and pointed; 
He went to the farthest cabin, knocked, and went in. 
"Well, Helen. You found a real sunny place." Opening the door 
She'd been a violet-eyed girl, a little slatternly 
But rich with life; she stood back from the door 
Sallow, with pinched nostrils and dwindled eyes, 
As if she had lost a fountain of blood, and faintly 
Whispering "I knew you." Reave looked about him like one 
Attentively learning the place, and Helen said 
"I never hoped that you wouldn't come at last, 
It seemed a kind of blood-trail for you to follow. 
And then I knew you were tardy and cold of course and at last 
You'd come at last, you never give up anything, 
How did you track us at last?" "Oh," he laughed, "Time and I. 
He's at work?" "Yes." "If you wanted to hide 
You'd have got him to change his name." "I begged him to," she 


Suddenly weeping, "so many times." "Don't cry, don't cry. 
You know that I'll never hurt you. Mark loves you too, he's been 

very lonely. He wanted me to let you go, 
But that was nonsense. He's been sick since you went away. Do 

you remember the rose-bush you made me buy 
That time in Salinas? Mark's watered it for you, sick or well, 
Every day, limping around the house with a pail of water spilling 

on his poor ankle-joint, 
He'll be glad to see you again. Well, pack your things." She 



Her blanked face to some show of life. "Look around at this 
country. Oh Reave. Reave. Look. I let him 

Take me here at last. And he hasn't been always perfectly kind: 
but since Fve been living with him I love him . . . 

My heart would break if I tried to tell you how much. I'm not 
ashamed. There was something in me that didn't 

Know about love until I was living with him. I kissed him, when 
he went back to work this noon. 

I didn't know you were corning; forgot you were coming some- 
time. See how it is. No: I understand: 

You won't take me." He, astonished: "Not take you? After hunt- 
ing you a whole year? You dream too much, Helen. 

It makes you lovely in a way, but it clouds your mind. You must 
distinguish. All this misfortune of yours 

Probably . . ." "Oh God," she said, shuddering, 

"Will you preach too? First listen to me: I tell you all the other 
joys Fve ever known in my life 

Were dust to this . . . misfortune; the desert sun out there is a 
crow's wing against the brightness of this . . . 

Misfortune: Oh I didn't mean, dear, 

To make you angry." She was suddenly kneeling to him and 
pressed her face 

On his hard thigh: "I know Pve been wicked, Reave. 

You must leave me in the dirt for a bad woman: the women here 

See the marks of it, look sidelings at me. 

I'll still believe you used to love me a little, 

But now of course 

You wouldn't want for a wife ... a handkerchief 

You lost and another man picked me up and 

Wiped his mouth. Oh there may have been many 

Other men. In a year: you can't tell. 

Your mother is strong and always rightly despised me. 

She'd spit on me if she saw me now. So now 

You'll simply cast me off; you're strong, like your mother, 

And when you see that a thing's perfectly worthless 

You can pick it out of your thoughts. Don't forgive me. I only 

Pray you to hate me. Say 'She's no good. To hell with her/ 

That's the mercy I pray you for." He said hastily, "Get up, 



This is no theater. I intend to take you back, Helen, 

I never was very angry at you, remembering 

That a. woman's more like a child, besides you were muddled 

With imaginations and foolish reading. So we'll shut this bad year 

In a box of silence and drown it out of our minds." She stood 

away from him toward the farther wall 
With a sharp white face, like a knife-blade worn thin and hollow 

with too much whetting, and said, turning her face 
Toward the window, "How do I know that he can compel me? 

He can torment us, but there's no law 
To give me to him. You can't take me against my will. No: I 

won't go. Do you think you're God, 
And we have to do what you want?" He said, "You'll go all 

right." She, laughing, "At last you've struck something 
Stiffer than you. Reave, that stubborn will 
Is not strength but disease, I've always known it, like the slow 

limy sickness 

You hear about, that turns a man's flesh to bone, 
The willing muscles and fibers little by little 
Grow hard and helpless, at last you can't dent them, nothing will 


He lands in a tent beside the circus, with a painting of him 
Over the door and people pay ten cents 
To see the petrified man: that's your stubbornness, 
Your mind sets and can't change, you don't go on 
Because you want to but because you have to, I pity you, 
But here you're stopped." Suddenly she trembled and shrank 

little again. "7f you could take me 

I'd stab you in bed sleeping." "You know," he answered, 
"You're talking foolishness. I have to see Armstrong before we go, 
When he quits work, I guess there's a couple of hours, but you'd 

best get ready." "Why must you see ... Rick?" 
Reave made no answer, Helen covertly watched him, slowly the 

metal temper failed from her face. 
"I'll go," she said faintly, "and tell him." "You'll stay here." 


Reave. You said you weren't angry." "Not at you. If I'd anyone 
To help me, I'd send you off first. Walked around like a man, 



Was a male bitch . . ." "I led him, I called him, I did it. 
It's all mine." "What?" "The blame, the blame, the blame, 
I planned it, all mine, I did it, Reave." A white speck glittered 
At the commissure of his lips, he licked his lips 
As if he were thirsty and said difficultly, "I've had a 
Year to think about it: have to have relief, you're 
Let off, keep still." She felt his eyes 

Craftily avoiding hers, and something monstrous in him mould- 
ing the mass of his body to a coarsened 
More apelike form, that a moment appeared and then was 

cramped back to human: her image-making mind beheld 
Her lover go under the hammers of this coarse power, his face 

running thick blood turn up at last 
Like a drowning man's, before he went down the darkness, all his 

gay bravery crushed made horrible submission: 
With any warning or whatever weapons he'd be like a bird in a 

dog's mouth, Reave had all the strength, 
Would fight foul, with all means and no mercy: "Oh, Oh, take 

me with you 

If you want me, but now. Before he comes. 
How could I look at him again if I'm going to leave him? You 


That's too much to ask me, to stand between you 
Like a cow between the brown bull and the white one. 
In spite of all I'm not so ... shameless as ... 
You think." He made a questioning noise, "Hm?" and she 


He'd failed to hear: "I'll go and live with you 
If you'll take me now. I can't face Rick, not wait for Rick," 
She said, weaving and parting the fingers 
Of her two supplicant hands. She essayed more words, 
But only the lips and no voice made them, then again 
Breath filled the words, "I've done wickedly, I'm sorry. 
I will obey you now." His eyes were hidden 
While he considered, all at once he said joyfully 
"Pack then." "Me, not my things: there's nothing." "Then come." 
She followed him; suddenly in the doorway she dropped 
And kissed the threshold. 



Thurso watched and said nothing; 
She got up and walked at his side in the hot white dust by the 

row of small cabins, 

The wood of their doors and walls was worn to the look of sea- 
drift by the desert sand-scour. Suddenly Helen 
Laughed like the bitter crying of a killdeer when someone walks 

near the nest, "My God, Reave, have you come for me 
In the old wreck of a farm-truck, will it still run?" "What else? 

We haven't got rich, we haven't bought cars 
While I've been away from home hunting you." "The pigs and 

I," she cried shrilly. Reave nodded, and went to the door 
Of the last cabin, and said to the woman to whom he had spoken 

before: "I'm taking my wife home. 

This woman's my wife. When Armstrong comes, tell that bastard 
We're going west. He's got a car." Helen cried, "Oh, cheat, cheat, 
Will you tole him after you?" He said heavily. "What do you 


Come on," and so holding her wrist that the bones ached 
Drew her to the car. She had yielded and was subject to him, 
She could imagine no recourse, her mind palsied 
Like the wrist-clenched hand. 


After twenty miles he turned 
The carbureter-connection, slyly regarding 
His seat-mate, she fogged with misery observed nothing. 
The engine went lame, "What's the matter?" he said, turning 
The carbureter-connection; the engine stalled. 
He lifted the hood and made the motions of helplessness, 
Looking up sometimes at Helen, who sat in the dust on the high 

seat on the folded blanket, 
Her face in her hands. "We're stuck here," Thurso said. "Well, 

we have water." She dropped her hands from her face 
And stared at the road ahead; then she began to see the desert 

about them, the unending incandescent 
Plain of white dust, stippled with exact placing of small gray 

plants, each tuft a painfully measured 



Far distance from every other and so apparently forever, all 

wavering under the rage of the sun, 

A perfect arena for the man's cruelty; but now she was helpless. 
Still Armstrong failed to come; Helen awoke again 
From blind misery, and watched Reave's nerves 
Growing brittle while the sun sailed west. He babbled childlike 
About cattle and pastures, things unreal, unimaginable, 
In the white anguish here; his hands quivered, 
And the sun sank. 

In the night Helen revived 
Enough to make action appear possible again. 
She crept stealthily away in the starry darkness 
Thinking Reave slept; when he spoke she tried to run, 
Her thighs and calves were like hollow water, he followed 
And brought her back through the vast unnatural pallor of the 

Rough-handed, but only saying "You're too restless." She writhed 

her hands together like bitter flames and lay down 
On the spread blanket. After while she lay face upward. Those 

foam-bubbles on the stale water of night 
Were floating stars, what did it matter, which of two men? 
Yesterday the one had been lovely and the other 
Came in like ugly death, but difference had died. Rick Armstrong 

must have made some ridiculous plan 
For heading them off or else he'd have come. Perhaps he thought 

she went willingly. Why not? "I go with you willingly," 
She said aloud, "dear, do you hear me? I've shot my load of 

feeling, there's nothing left in the world 
Worth thinking twice. We'll crawl home to our hole." 
He answered, "I can't believe he's a coward: he'll come in the 

morning." "I dread death 
More than your mother's eyes," she answered. "I'm the coward 

or I'd kill myself. Dear, I fear death 
More than I hate this dishwater broth of life. A bowlful a day, O 

God! Do the stars look 

Like lonely and pretty sparkles when you look up? 
They look to me like bubbles of grease on cold 



Dishwater." He said, "Sleep, you*!! feel better." He heard her 


And twisting her body on the sand while the night waned. 
He got up and stood beside her and said anxiously, 
"I was to blame too, Helen. Part of the blame 
Is mine, Helen. I didn't show enough love, 
Nor do often enough 

What women want. Maybe it made your life 
Seem empty. It seems ... it seems to me it wouldn't be decent 
To do it just now: but I'll remember and be 
Better when we get home." She said, "O God! Fool, fool, 
A spoonful a night. Your mother was lying to you. 
She knows better." 

In the morning 

Thurso waited two hours from sunrise; 
They had nothing to eat; Helen endured her headache, and the 

shameless sun 

Blared from the east. Reave greased the joints of the truck. 
When one of those long gray desert lizards that run 
With heads raised highly, scudded through the white sand, 
He flung the wrench suddenly and broke its back 
And said "He won't come then. My God, Helen, 
Was he tired of you? He won't come." She watched her husband 
Pick up the wrench and batter that broken life, 
Still lifting up its head at him, into the sand. He saw the yellow 
Grains of fat in the red flesh and said, 
"Come here, Helen. Yellow you see, yellow you see. 
Your friend makes us all vile." She understood 
That "yellow" meant cowardly, and that this was Armstrong 
Battered to a cake of blood. 


They drove west 

Through the white land; the heat and the light increased, 
At length around a ridge of ancient black lava 
Appeared a place of dust where food could be bought, but Helen 
Would eat nothing. In the evening they came 



Vmong fantastic Joshua-trees to a neat 

"ramed square of cabins at the foot of a mountain 

Jke a skeleton; seeing Helen so white and sick, 

Vnd the motor misfiring, Reave chose to lodge at this camp. 

He'd tinker the engine while there was daylight. He found the 

Choked up with drift of the desert; having washed it with gaso- 
line and heard the cylinders 

Roar cheerfully again, he returned to Helen. 

She was not in the cabin, 

But sat with chance companions on a painted bench under the 
boughs of one of those reptilian trees 

Near the camp entrance; no longer white and morose, her face 
was flushed, her eyes sparkling with darkness 

[n the purple evening that washed the mountain. Before he came 
she was saying, "My husband just doesn't care 

What anyone thinks: he said, all right, if I wanted to see the 
desert, but he wouldn't take either one 

Of our new cars to be spoiled, he'd drive the old farmtruck . . ." 
Seeing Reave approaching, greased black to the elbows, "Oh, 

What's he been doing? Oh: it's black, I think? Dear, I felt better 

When the sun went down." He, staring at her companions: 

"That's good." "They call it desert fever," she stammered. 

"The heat's the cause." She stood up, giggling and swaying. 

"Was nearly exhausted, they gave me a little medicine. 

Nice people." "What did you give her?" "She begged for a table- 
spoonful," the old woman answered, "Texas corn-whiskey. 

Are you going west?" Helen said gravely, "A spoonful a night: 
O God!" "She's eaten nothing," Reave said, 

"Since yesterday. Come and lie down, Helen." She obeyed, walk- 
ing unsteadily beside him, with terrified eyes. 

"Dear, please don't touch me, your hands are terrible," she said. 
"They think you killed him." 

He made her lie down on the bed while he washed himself. 

She wept and said, "I always make friends easily. 

[ used to be full of joy. Now my wishes 



Or your own soul will destroy you when you get home. 

I'd give my life to save you." He groaned angrily, 

But she was unable to be silent and said: 

"I think you're even worse hurt than I am. Were you ever on a 


This place is like a ship, everything smells 
In spite of neatness, and I am desert-sick. 
Oh, Reave, I never dreamed that you'd be deep- wounded. 
Forgive me dear." He violently: "Lick your own sores. 
The man was my friend and that degrades me: but youVe 
Slept with him. You couldn't help but have learned him 
In a year's familiar life and I've been thinking 
That whores you, because no woman can love a coward, 
And still you stayed . . ." "For his money, for his money you 


She answered through chattering teeth, "and the fine house 
You found me in among the rich gardens, the jewels and furs, 
Necklaces of pearls like round zeroes, all these hangings of gold 
That make me heavy . . ." "Ah," he said, "be quiet." He went 

out, and returning after a time with a tray of food 
Lighted the lamp and cut meat in small bites and forced her to 

eat. "Dear," she mourned, "I can't swallow 
Though I chew and chew. The rocking of the ship and the hot 

smell close up my throat. Oh be patient with me. 
When we land I'll feel better," her deep-colored eyes moving in 

sickly rhythm to the roll of the ship, 
He said "You're in the desert: an auto-camp by the road. Wake 

up and eat." She sat up on the bed 
And looked anxiously about the bleak lamplight, then took the 


And obeyed his will. "I thought you were my dad. 
Once we travelled on a boat from the south 
To San Francisco. I expect I saw from the deck the Mill Creek 

mountains and never 

Guessed," she said, shuddering. While she ate she began to fear 
That people who were going to die dreamed of a ship 
The night before. The truck would be overturned 
And crush her body in the sand like that lizard's, 
A tire would have burst. 



Against the black horror of death 
All living miseries looked sweet; in a moment of aimless 
Wild anguish she was unable not to cry out, and said: 
"Ah, Ah, what have you done, tearing me from him? I love him, 

you know. 
Maybe he's cowardly or maybe he's only tired of me, but if he's 

yellow to the bones, if he's yellower than gold, 
I love him, you know. 
If I were crushed in the sand like that lizard you killed, to a cake 

of blood why not? for I think you'll 
Do it sometime the sun would dry me and my dust would blow 

to his feet: if I were dead in the desert 
And he drowned in the middle ocean toward Asia, yet something 

and something from us would climb like white 
Fires up the sky and twine high shining wings in the hollow sky: 

while you in your grave lie stuck 
Like a stone in a ditch." He, frowning: "Have you finished?" 

He took the tray and said, "Have you had enough?" 
"Never enough. Dear, give me back to him. I can't think yet 
That you understand," she said slyly and trembling. 
"Don't you care, that he and I have made love together 
In the mountains and in the city and in the desert, 
And once at a Navajo shepherd's camp in the desert in a storm of 

Playing through the cracks of the shed: can you wink and 


All that?" "I can't help it. You've played the beast. 
But you are my goods and you'll be guarded, your filthy time 
Has closed. Now keep still." 

She was silent and restless for a good while. 
He said, "You'll be sleeping soon, and you need sleep. 
I'll go outside while you get ready for bed." 
"Let me speak, just a little," she said humbly. 
"Please, Reave, won't you leave me here in the morning, I'll 

manage somehow. 

You're too strong for us, but, dear, be merciful. 
I think you don't greatly want me: what you love really 



Is something to track down: your mountains are full of deer: 

Oh, hunt some bleeding doe. I truly love you. 

I always thought of you as a dear, dear friend 

When even we were hiding from you." He was astonished 

To see her undress while she was speaking to him, 

She seemed to regard him as a mere object, a keeper, 

But nothing human. "And Rick Armstrong," she said, 

"I can't be sure that I love him: dear, I don't know 

That I'll go back to him; but I must have freedom, I must have 


If only to die in, it comes too late . . ." 
She turned her back and slipped off the undergarment 
And glided into the bed. She was beautiful still, 
The smooth fluted back and lovely long tapering legs not 


Nor the supple motions; nor that recklessness 
Of what Thurso called modesty was any change; 
She never tried to conceal her body from him 
Since they were married, but always thoughtless and natural; 
And nestled her head in the pillow when she lay down 
With little nods, the tender way he remembered: 
So that a wave of compassionate love 
Dissolved his heart: he thought, "Dearest, I've done 
Brutally: I'll not keep you against your will. 
But you must promise to write to me for help 
When you leave that cur." He made the words in his mind 
And began to say: "Dearest . . ." but nothing further 
Had meaning in it, mere jargon of mutterings, the mouth's refusal 
Of the mind's surrender; and his mind flung up a memory 
Of that poor dead man, his father, with the sad beaten face 
When the lime-kilns failed: that man yielded and was beaten, 
A man mustn't be beaten. But Helen hearing 
The "dearest," and the changed voice, wishfully 
Lifted her head, and the great violet eyes 
Sucked at Reave's face. "No," he said. He blew out the lamp, 
Resolved to make this night a new marriage night 
And undo their separation. She bitterly submitted; 
"I can bear this: it doesn't matter: I'll never tell him. 



I feel the ship sailing to a bad place. Reave, I'm so tired 

That I shall die. If my wrist were broken 

You wouldn't take my hand and arm in your hands 

And wriggle the bones for pleasure? You're doing that 

With a worse wound." Her mind had many layers; 

The vocal one was busy with anguish, and others 

Finding a satisfaction in martyrdom 

Enjoyed its outcry; the mass of her mind 

Remained apparently quite neutral, under a familiar 

Embrace without sting, without savor, without significance, 

Except that this breast was hairier. 


They drove through the two 

deserts and arrived home. Helen went in 

With whetted nerves for the war with Reave's mother, resolving 
Not to be humble at least; but instead of the sharp old woman a 

little creature 
With yellow hair and pleated excess of clothing stood up in the 

room; and blushed and whitened, anxiously 
Gazing, clasping thin hands together. Reave said, "It's Hester 

Clark." And to Hester Clark: "Tell Olvidia 
To count two more for supper; my wife and I have come home." 

She answered, "Oh yes," fleeing. Then Helen: 
"What's this little thing? Why does it wear my dress?" "She's 

only hemmed it over," he said, "at the edges. 
Have it again if you want, I had to find something for her." His 

mother was heard on the stair, and entering 
Looked hard at Helen and went and kissed Reave. Who said, "I 

shall stay at home now, mother: Helen's come home." 
"Yes. How do you do." Her red-brown eyes brushed Helen's 

body from the neck to the ankles, "I'll have them heat 
Bathwater." Helen trembled and said, "How kind. There are 

showers in all the camps: if you mean anything else: 
Reave seems content." "Very well. He's easily of course con- 
tented. He picks up things by the road: one of them 
I've allowed to live here: to speak honestly 



In hope to keep his mind off another woman: but that cramps 

and can't change." "If I knew what I want!" 
Helen cried suddenly. "The girl is a servant here," Reave said. 

"I hate the spitefulness of women. The housework 
Needed help when you were not here." Then Helen: "She's quite 

sick I think: she'll have to clear out I think. 
Yet something in me felt kindly toward that little wax face 
In my old clothes. I came home against my will. Why isn't Mark 

here?" The far door opened for Olvidia, 
Unable to imagine any pretext for entrance, but unable to bridle 

her need 

Of coming, to stare and smile from flat black eyes. Behind her 
Johnny Luna was seen peering, but dared not enter. 
Then Helen wondered, where was that thin little thing? 
Crying somewhere? And Reave's mother said: "Now you'll cut 


The old cable, as you promised, Reave. We're tired of seeing it. 
You'll have time now." He answered, "Where's Mark, mother? 
Helen just asked you." "I heard her. 

Sitting under a bush on the hill, probably. Your wife's adventures 
Stick in his throat." Then Helen, trembling, and the words marred 
By sudden twitchings of her lips: "I'm not ashamed. No reason 

to be. I tried to take myself out of here 
And am brought back by threats and by force, to a gray place 

like a jail, where the sea-fog blows up and down 
From the hill to the rock, around a house where no one ever 

loved or was glad. But your spite's nothing, 
Pour it out, I'll swim in it: and fear Reave but not you, and maybe 

after while . . . That's all. Reave, I'll go up 
And change my dress before supper, if your ... if little wax- 
face you know . . . has left me any 
Clothes in the closet." 

She went upstairs; the others were silent, 
Until the old woman: "Ah why, why," she said, "Reave, 
Did you have to bring back ... I know. You had to. Your mind 
Sticks in its own iron: when you've said 'I wilP 
Then you're insane, the cold madness begins. 
It's better than weakness," 



He answered with shamefast look shunning her eyes, "I must tell 
you, mother, 

Though it may seem strange: I love her, you know. Some acci- 

Or my neglect, changed her; I'll change her over 

And bring the gold back." "You talk like poor Mark. Oh, worse. 

Mark at least feels disgust. A woman that can't it seems 

Even have babies. . . . About the old cable: 

He's been seeing lately . . . your father: the man who's 
dead . . . 

Pitifully staring up at it in the evenings. 

He broods on that. The shock of your disgrace I believe 

Started his mind swarming, and he hobbles out 

In the starlight. I wish you to keep your promise 

And cut that ruin from our sky. It's bad for Mark 

To remember his father; and I've a feeling 

The memory slacks us all, something unlucky will clear 

When that cord's cut. Don't you hate seeing it?" "Oh, yes, 

Like anything else that's no use. It'd fall by itself 

Some winter. I'll cut it down. There are trees under it 

That have to be saved. Mother, I won't ask you 

To make friends with my wife: you're not to fuss either. 

And don't prod her with Hester. We'll have some peace in the 

Or I'll growl too." 


Mark's lameness appeared more painful than 

formerly; Helen from the window seeing him 
Limping across the dooryard, she went and followed. He stood 

by the sycamore, under great yellowing leaves, 
And Helen: "You hardly spoke to me last night, though a year 

had passed. Have I lost your love, my brother? I valued it. 
I need it more than in happier times." "That . . ." he answered, 
"Oh Helen!" "Because I could hardly think how to live here," 

she said, "without it." "I have no color of words 
To say how dearly . . . When I seem dark: you must think of 

me as a foolish day-dreamer 



Whose indulgence turns and clouds him, so that he sees a dead 


Walk on the deck, and feels the ship sailing 
Through darkness to a bad place." She, astonished with memory: 
"The ship, the ship?" "You see. My foolish dreams 
Twine into my common talk. Maybe it's my hearing at night 
The watery noises and hoarse whisper of the shore that sets me 
Into that dream, I feel the see-sawing keel, my mind tries darkly 

ahead under the stars 
What destiny we're driving toward. . . . Do you think, Helen, 

a dead man's 
Soul can flit back to his scene long afterwards?" "Your father, 

you mean? But I was lying in the scrawny desert, 
A thousand miles from any noise of the shore. It scared me be- 
cause I seem to remember hearing 
That to dream of a ship means death . . ." "If that's all," he 

smiled meagerly: 

"If we both dream it. I, for one, shan't trouble 
My survivors with any starlight returns, but stick to peace 
Like a hungry tick." "Oh," she said eagerly, "hush. 
It's wicked to talk like that." He was silent, then said, 
"Did you love him, Helen?" She clenched her hands, and turning 
Her head from him, "I thought you'd ask that. What's love?" 
And laid her hand on the leaning pillar of the tree 
To turn herself back to his face, to study no higher 
Than the lean jaw and strained mouth, lower than the eyes, 
And carefully said, "Of course I loved him; but I believe 
My shining terror of Reave was the cause. 
For now that desert stalk's cut, the old root of fear 
Seems aching to a new flowering. Why do I fear him? I know for 

He'll neither kill me nor beat me, I've proved it: and I even 

tricked him out of his vengeance, you know, he came home 
With nothing but me. . . . Where did he get that Hester? No, 

tell me after while. . . , Listen. I used to think 
That the only good thing is a good time: I've got past that . . . 
Into the dark. I need something, I can't know what it is." She 

thought in her heart: "I know. 



To humble your strong man, that's what I need." And said: "To 

be free. He called me a harlot, Marie. I am a 
Harlot of a rare nature. The flesh is only a symbol. Oh, can't you 

see me 
Beaten back and forth between the two poles, between you and 


She watched, that his lips moved like a plucked string, 
So that she thought "It can be done," and said, 
"The one pole's power, that I tried to escape: that strong man, 

you know: 

And have been . . . retrieved, and can't tell whether I hate him 
Or what. The second, you can name better than I: 
The power behind power, that makes what the other can only 
Direct or destroy. See how wise I've grown. Dear: in the desert 
I cried a good deal at night: it wasn't for Reave, 
Nor for his mother! my eyelids rained in the dusty 
Country where rain's not natural. I'd look up the night 
And see the sharp dry stars like great bubbles 
Blown up and swollen, full of most bitter rainbows, 
Float on the wave of the world: it was for you 
My tears ran down." 

She watched his mouth, in the thought 

That if she stretched romance to laughter, or his doubting point, 
She'd be warned by his lips: but Mark perhaps had not even 

heard her; he said, "I used to thank God 
Whatever it is that's coming, Helen's not here. If even she's crying 

in the night somewhere: she's flown 
Like a bird out of the hands of our catcher. Now you've come 

home! . . . Oh, at better times 
I think my fears are only a flaw of the mind; 
Or else that the dark ship driving to its drowning 
Is only my own poor life: that might go down 
Without a bubble." She angrily: "Reave at least 
Is something solid to fear . . . You and your shadows! 
I was going to make love to you, Mark, 
All to spite Reave and because he bores me, but your nonsense 
Has run mine out of breath. You've missed something. 



Tell me about this . . . what's her name? Reave's wisp, 

All eyes and hair." Mark failed to answer; she looked 

And saw his face fixed and anxious. "What's the matter now?" 

"Is that Reave?" he whispered. "Exactly. What's in Reave 

To make you dome out your eyes like a caught fish?" 

"He's staring up at the cable, Helen! The old man stands in 

That same place and stares up at the cable 

Every night." "Soon to miss his amusement, poor ghost. 

Reave's planning to take it down. Be sure when Reave looks up 

He has a purpose." 

He approached and said, "To-morrow morning 
We'll cut it down. But the best trees in the canyon 
Stand in the shadow of its fall. 
I've planned a way to tie the cut end with rope 
And steer it west in its fall, and I hope clear them. 
They must take their chance." He looked at Mark and said, 

"We'll feel better 

After the old advertisement of failure's down. 
It's cobwebbed the canyon for twenty years." He looked at 


"We'll start a new life to-morrow." She marvelled secretly 
At the reasonless anger that ran through her dry nerves like a 

summer grass-fire, and shrilly, "You and I?" she answered, 
"Or you and your . . . little floozie, that whittled match?" 
He frowned, his temples darkened with the heavy muscle 
Setting the jaw, he said in a moment: "I've given Hester notice 

to go. She's going to-morrow. 
You're staying. So rest your mind." "Ah, Ah," she said, "be 

proud of strength while you can. Cut the cable 
And forget your father. Whatever fails, cut it down. Whatever 

gets old or weakens. Send Hester packing 
Because a bigger woman's brought home. If a dog or a horse 

have been faithful, kill them on the shore of age 
Before they slacken. See to keep everything around you as strong 

and stupid 
As Reave Thurso." And turning suddenly: 



"Oh, Mark, tell me what's good, I don't know which way to 

turn. Is there anything good? Whisper, whisper. 
That mould of hard beef and bone never asks, 
He never wonders, took it ready-made when he was a baby, 

never changes, carft change. You and I 
Have to wonder at the world and stand between choices. That's 

why we're weak and ruled. If we could ever 
Find out what's good, we'd do it. He'd be surprised. 
What a rebellion!" She changed and said, "Reave? 
Let that girl stay a week; you might need her yet. 
In any case I'd like to know her a little. 
She keeps out of my way, I haven't had time. 
A week or two." He, staring: "That's a sickly thing 
For a man's wife to want. No. She's going 
At the set time. If you can't tell what's good: 
It's lucky I have a compass and can steer the ship." 
"Oh, Oh. That ship again?" she cried laughing, 
"Maybe there's something in it, if even Reave . . . 
Can you feel it straining through the dark night? Mark: you heard 


He's a dreamer too. You'd never imagine it, 
To see him stand there so fleshy, shaking his head 
Like a bull in fly-time: if he dreams he'll fall yet. We'll try." 
She turned and went toward the house. 

Reave said, "What was all that? 
There was a time when I'd have stared at myself 
For bringing home . . . and letting it talk and talk 
As if it had rights in the world. It's her colored abounding life 
That makes her lovely." "She's tied to you," Mark answered, 
"Like a falcon tied up short to a stone, a fierce one, 
Fluttering and striking in ten inches of air. I believe deeply 
You're precious to each other." "Hm. I bear clawing 
As well as anyone." Mark, earnestly: "Oh be good to her, 
Not to let her be hurt in the coming time." 
"No more of that, Mark. You know these forebodings 
Date from our time in France and the muddy splinter 
That wrecked your ankle. You must make allowances." He an- 
swered, "You'd think 



This rocked-in gorge would be the last place in the world to bear 

the brunt: but it's not so: they told me 
This is the prow and plunging cutwater, 
This rock shore here, bound to strike first, and the world behind 

will watch us endure prophetical things 

And learn its fate from our ends." "Booh. We'll end well," he an- 
swered, laughing, "the world won't watch. 
When you and I toast long white beards and old freckled hands, 

and Helen 

Like a little shrivelled apple by the fire between us 
Still faintly glows, in the late evenings of life, 
We'll have the fun that old people know, guessing 
Which of us three will die first. I dare say the world 
Will be quite changed then." "You're very hopeful. But even you 
I think feel the steep time build like a wave, towering to break, 
Higher and higher; and they've trimmed the ship top-heavy. 
. . . Do you take it down to-morrow?" "Ah? The cable you 


I told you: in the morning. You must all come and watch. 
The fall will be grand. Those things have weight." 


Helen had gone 
As if she carried news in her mind through the house to the 

kitchen; there dark Olvidia 
Stood big and ominous in a steam of beef boiling. "Where's your 

helper, Olvidia, the little mop 
That pares potatoes?" She answered sadly, "Is cabbage too." "I 

say where's the elf-child, 

The inch with the yellow hair? Ought to be helping you." 
"Oh, that? She going away." "To-morrow, maybe. 
Where is she now?" The Indian rolled her dun eyes 
Toward the open door of the laundry, and Helen passing 
Looked all about among piled tubs and behind 
An old desk of Reave's father's; the girl she sought 
Stood up in a corner. "What enormous eyes you have. 
Why were you hiding?" Helen said. "Oh no. I'd done my work," 
She answered plaintively, "I was just thinking here. 



1 have to go away to-morrow." "Wearing my dress," Helen said. 
"Did you come here without any clothes at all?" "He . . . Mr. 

Thurso . . . mine were worn out, 

He burned them up." "A handkerchief would cover you, though. 
I don't believe you weigh ninety pounds 
Without the weight of my clothes. Oh, you're welcome. 
I think I'll take the prettiest one in the closet 
And cut it to fit you like finch's feathers. 
Is your name Hester? How can you bear Reave's weight, 
Your body's the width of my arm?" The girl trembled 
And twisted herself sidewise. "Aren't you angry at me?" 
"Oh no," Helen said; and anxiously: "I don't know. I'm lost. 
Oh why should I be angry, nothing is worth . . . 
Nothing, I believe. 

Do you want to stay here? Don't you hate Reave? 7 do. 
Madly." The other with a begging whine: "I'd work. 
You are so kind." And whispered, "I might do all 
The old Spanish woman's work, you could let her go." 
Then Helen suddenly, her lips withering 
From the white teeth: "Olvidia, come here. This scrap 
Wants us to fire you: she wants to be with my husband: 
Take both our places, how's that for treachery? Because she's 

nothing earthly but a stack of hair and enormous 
Gray eyes, thinks I'll stand anything. . . . Wives hate your 

trade, don't you know that?" "I ... didn't understand. I 

thought you 
Meant me to stay. I never felt safe before, but here I had my own 

room and was warm enough, 

And Mr. Thurso was never drunk." "Oh, that was something. 
Where did you come from?" She looked at Olvidia's dark ex- 
pressionless face, and sidling a little nearer 
To Helen for shelter: "Hymettus, Nebraska: I lived with my 

aunt Margaret, she was always punishing me 
Because my uncle wouldn't let me alone. She was big and thin. 
I ran away with a boy but he soon left me. 
I tried to get rides west, people would keep me awhile 
And turn me out. I think I was going to die 
When Mr. Thurso saw me beside the road." 



"And loaded you into the farm-truck, ah? 

Go on." "He gave me some bread and got some coffee 

At the next place. I've been happy here. Oh, 

What will become of me now?" "I can't guess," Helen said. "My 

Can't change his mind: so you'll have to go, whatever you and 
I want. It jams in the slot; nothing 

Will budge it after that, not with a crowbar. What will he be at 
fifty, ah? How old are you, Hester?" 

"Eighteen . . . nineteen." "I expect it's true: that stack of hair, 
Olvidia, took time to grow." Olvidia 

Scowled and said darkly to Hester: "You set the table. 

It's time for dinner." The girl moved quickly to obey, but Helen: 
"Stay here." 

She stood then in white anxiety 

Between the two, and suddenly began to weep. 

Helen went near her and said, "I want awfully 

To know you, Hester. There's deep strangeness in your 

Wanting to stay in this place. . . . Olvidia, I'm still your mis- 

Make us two sandwiches: set the table yourself. 

Sandwiches: meat between bread." She said to Hester: 

"You're not false, I think. Helpless; perfectly; 

A person without any will: mine's only hiding. 

If I could just imagine what's good, or even 

What's bad, you'd see the machine move like a ship. 

You mustn't fear Reave, either. 

He has a great will, frittered away on trifles, 

Farm things, and you and me. And unable to strike a woman: 

So we needn't fear to take food in our hands 

And go and play on the shore. Yes, I command you. 

That makes it easy." 

They walked under the alders that pave the 
gorge, and Helen: "Does it taste mouldy, 

The meat of this house? But you must eat and not waste it or 
you'll be sorry, for freedom, Hester, that's coming, 



Is a hungry condition. . . . Where will you go to?" "He says 
I must go to San Francisco." Helen looked, and laughed 

To see tears in her eyes. "You're crazy to cry about that. You 
wouldn't stay in this wretched crack 

Between two rocks? Come along, walk faster. Hester: that first 

When you ran away with a boy: did you want a boy, 

Or only you didn't dare go alone? Ah? I think that's 

What makes you cry. It keeps grinding in my mind 

That maybe I too ... just to break jail . . . 

It would be a dirty discovery." 

The creek-bank path 
Straightened a moment, so that a great aisle of bright breathing 


Stood clear ahead, and Helen: "Hester: do you know what? 
I'm going with you. I'll cut my hair to the bone 
And borrow Johnny Luna's greasy black hat, 
We'll fly away. I'll work for you, beg if we have to, 
We'll try all the roads in America 
And never quarrel; no disgust and no bullying. . . . Dear, it 

won't do. 

You'd obey orders, we know: but look at these hips 
And breasts of mine: these bulges in a man's blue-jeans 
Would bulge the laws of nature, ah? My affections 
Go with my build, we're talking froth, dear, 
Only to poultice the inner bitterness: taste me and you'd call 
Quinine honey." 

Suddenly emerging at the creek-mouth beach 

they breathed and stood still. The narrow crescent 
Of dark gravel, sundered away from the world by its walls of 

cliff, smoked in a burst of sun 
And murmured in the high tide through its polished pebbles. The 

surf broke dazzling on fins of rock far out, 
And foam flowed on the ankles of the precipice. Helen looked 

up, cliff over cliff, the great naked hill 



All of one rifted rock covering the northwest sky; and said: "It's 

called Thurso's Landing. That's something, 
To have the standing sea-cliffs named after you. His father used 

to swing down the barrels of lime 
From the head of that to the hulls of ships. The old wrecks of 

rusting engines are still to be seen up there, 
And the great concrete block that anchors the cable. I hope you'll 

To see it come down. He said, in the morning. You'll ride the 

mail-stage, I think: 
Passes at noon. . . . Will you have the willow or the rock, 


To undress beside?" "What . . . what is it?" "For a swim. 
Didn't they have a swimming-pool in Nebraska? 
Here's ours." "I can't. Oh, Oh." "You can duck up and down 
In the long waves," Helen said, laughing. "Undress. 
What do you think we came down for, to see cormorants?" 
"The cold will kill me." She answered, "You by this rock 
And I by that one. I've been ruled with dull iron, 
Now I'll rule you at least." 

She went, and returned 

In a moment, clean of clothing, but her small companion 
Stood shivering in a worn cotton under-shift 
And quavered, "I'll go down like this." Helen suddenly 
Anxious and haggard, standing far off, with a screaming voice: 
"I told you I want to see you: if I die of it. 
Nothing can be worse than what I imagine. 
Take off that rag." She sobbing and obedient 
Dropped it to the ankles and stepped out and stood 
Furled like a sail to the mast, the straw-thin arms 
Crossed on her breast, the hands hugging the tiny 
Bones of her crooked shoulders in the golden under-spray 
Of coiled-up hair. Helen stared and sighed, "Nothing 
But a white bony doll"; and turning to the sea: "We're all mon- 
Under the skins, but nothing is real I think 



Even if you cwft see it. Come on, poor thing, let's be launched; 

the foam-ripple's 
Like running cream and the clouds gather." 

She went down and 
Hester followed helplessly a few sad steps, 

But when the steel chill of the wave ached in her feet stood still, 
whining between hammering teeth, then Helen 

Caught her by the hand and dragged her thigh-deep, still keeping 
her face averse from her victim, like one compelled 

To handle a loathsome thing she made her dance in the waves. 
"Don't you love it, Hester, isn't this cold 

More noble than the heat of a sleeping man? Here comes a foam- 
head. I hate the man, yet I can hardly 

Keep back my hands from holding you down and drowning 
you; why's that, why's that?" while Hester childlike lament- 

Danced up and down as the seas deepened. Helen said, "He killed 
my friend 

In the bitter desert, a beautiful youth 

Yellow-haired like you, like you a wanderer. He flung a hammer," 

She said, seeing in her mind the running lizard 

That Reave had killed, "My dear friend fell, and that man 

Who seems so quiet and controlled wallowed like a boar 

Gnashing and trampling. There was no help anywhere 

In all the abominable flat lifeless plain. When Reave stood up 

A crooked red stump that had no eyes was dying in the sand, 
instead of the blond beautiful body 

I had often hugged in my arms. I heard it die. We travelled on, 
blinded with thirst and sun, 

And left it blackening; there are no tears in the desert, 

Water's too precious there." 

A greater wave came, gathering 
The mottled lit blue water in a bladed heap, then Helen braced 

well apart 

Her straight white legs, and lifted her little nearly fainting com- 
panion over the comb of the wave, 



So that the face was clear and the yellow hair felt but the spray. 

In the trough behind the white wave 

Helen shook her dark head, the water sluiced from her shoulders 
And rose-tipped breasts. "Fear nothing, Hester, I'm strong 


That deadly secret I told you: if you should dare 
To tell it again, think what might happen: a hanging. 
I might be freed. . . . Look up: there he comes now: can't live 

without us." She jeered, "Look at him, 
Stolid on the wild colt." They were looking shoreward and a 

wave covered them, 
Then Helen drew her companion from the roaring foam and 

carried her ashore. 

Thurso's half-broken mount 
Danced on the sea's edge in beaten terror, the thin black whip 

streaked the brown flanks; and Helen Thurso 
Like a myth of dawn born in the west for once, glowing rose 

through white all her smooth streaming body 
Came through the foam, and dragged beside her for a morning 

star fainting and dull in the rose of dawn 

That wisp of silver flesh and the water-darkened burden of hair; 
She stood panting, unable to speak, and Thurso 
Felt through his underconsciousness something morbid and men- 
In blue-shadowed silver foiled upon glowing rose, against the 


Foam, the tongues of cobalt water, and the shark-fin gray 
Rocks of the inlet, for now the sun was clouded, 
All colors found their significance; then Helen wrestling for 


"Ah, Reave. Here, Reave. 
I knew you'd come, I left word with Olvidia. 
Here's your wet honey: without my dress to pad her life-size 
Compare us two." His face wried and dark red, 
He twitched the whip in his hand, choking with anger, and 




"That's for your colt: not me you daren't. You haven't the 

courage, simply you haven't the courage. This peeled thing" 

She held Hester by the wrist not to escape "this peeled and 

breastless willow-twig here feared you 

Until I told her . . . Strike, strike. Let her see you." He shud- 
dered and blackened, laboring for words, and groaned, "Go 

Get on your clothes." "Now Fve learned something," she an- 
swered, "that even a thin slip like this is a better lover 
Than any . . . strike me, not her!" She let Hester go, who van- 
ished instantly, and Helen raised both round arms 
To unguard her smooth flanks and said writhing, "That whip of 


Might do what no love nor strength . . . you've never let your- 
self go, 

You've never ... I always bitterly feared you: 
Give me cause. I could bear much. I'd not move nor scream 
While you wrote the red stripes: 

But there's no nature in you, nothing but . . . noble . . . 
Nothing but . . . one of those predestined stone men 
For women to respect and cheat . . ." She was suddenly weeping 
And shivering; she leaned her face toward his knee 
And the horse danced sidewise, with a dull clashing sound 
Of unshod hooves in the pebbles, curving its body 
Away from her and against the whip; she stood back, 
Saying, "He thinks I'm a monster out of the sea. 
I'm not like . . . what you think. I'd have kissed your stirrup: 
But that's not sense either." She limped like an old woman 
Across the gravel toward her clothing, bent over, 
Stroking the sea- water off. 


It is certain that too violent 
Self-control is unlucky, it attracts hard events 
As height does lightning; so Thurso rode up the canyon with a 

little death in himself, 

Seeing in his mind Helen's naked body like a red bird-cage 
Welted with whip-stripes; and having refused the precious relief 
of brutality, and being by chance or trick 



Cheated of revenge on her desert lover, he endured small deaths 

in his mind, atrophied spots, like mouse-holes 
For the casual malice of things to creep in uncountered: so 

shortened by refusal of a fair act, Thurso 
Rode up from the shore in the frown of fortune. The cress-paved 

pools of the stream, the fortifying beauty on the north 
Of the rock rampart, and toward the south of the forested slope, 

and the brave clouds with flashing bellies 
Crossing the gorge like a fleet of salmon, were as nothing to him. 

Once he jerked back the colt's 
Bit-spread jaws to its breast and half turned back 
To the shore again, but sat bewildered a moment 
And snapped his teeth together and rode on, imagining 
Some work to do. 

He tied the colt by the house-door 

And went through the house to a closet where hunting-gear, 
Guns, traps and vermin-poisons were kept, he fetched some 

pounds of bitter barley in the butt of a sack 
To abate the pest of ground-squirrels. Returning through the 

still rooms 
He met his mother and said, "I've been to the beach, where they 

were bathing. I'm going to the upper field 

With squirrel-poison." She said, "In October?" "Nobody else 
Seems to have kept them down, in my absences. 
Without some killing they'll breed armies in spring." 
"Mark isn't able to kill, Luna's too lazy: 
I ought to have driven him: I didn't think of it, Reave, 
Not being often in the fields." He sighed and said, 
"I wish it would rain. Mother, you have been right 
To dislike that woman. I guess you're right." She turned 
Her reddish flint eyes from his face to the window, 
Thinking "What now has she done?" and saying, "Nobody 
Can praise your choices. Soft pliable men have the luck in love. 
Maybe you can get rid of her without much trouble." 
He answered fiercely, "Why did you let Luna 
Bridle the brown colt while I was away? 
He broke it with a whip: it was gentle-natured. 


Don't speak, mother, of Helen. 

I never will let her go until she is dead." 

The old woman, sharply eyeing him again: "If you could stand 


Under the iron skip when you cut the cable 
To-morrow morning." He looked down at the flat 
White hair on the gray forehead and laughed doubtfully 
Without knowing why. "Our ship sails when I cut the cable. 
He ought to be whipped himself: Johnny a horse-breaker! 
The colt is spoilt. ... I must ask you, mother, 
Not to interfere between mine and me. 
Whatever you say about the stock or the fields 
I'll see to very patiently: my wife is my own concern, 
You must not meddle." "I have no desire to: as you know clearly, 

In your mind's quiet time." "What does that mean, that I seem 

excited: drunk, hm? Wrong, mother, quite wrong. 
I've noticed in other autumns, when the earth bakes brittle and 

the rains lag, I become gloomy and quarrelsome, 
But not this year. Cheerful. Squirrel-poison's 
What I came in for, 
To sow it in the fields above: they increased out of all bounds in 

my absences." 

He left the house 
And rode up the hill to the gray stubble-field, where many 

ground-squirrels scampered away before him, or erected 
Like pegs on mounds of dug earth before their house-doors 

barked shrill warning to each other in the sunny air, 
While Thurso, leading his horse about the borders of the field, 

laid at the mouth of each burrow and carefully 
In the little trackways light treacherous gifts; he mounted and 

rode to the lower plowland. From thence returning 
Above the path of dazzle on the burnished sea, he heard one of 

his vermin singing its terror 
In the first pain of death; its chirping voice was muffled in the 

earth; and Thurso likewise went down 



Out of the tension of the sun to the shadowed canyon. Where the 

path from the hill 

Joined one that wound into the redwoods, he saw his brother 
Cross hastily and glance toward him, and labor down 
Like a hobbled horse, the plunge and drag of lame haste. 
Reave overtook him. Mark said, "Look. Now he stands. 
I was talking to him until he drifted away 
As if a wind had come up. Reave, I beg you 
Ride some way around, or he'll glide off again 
And never tell me the rest." Reave leaned in the saddle 
And took his brother by the shoulder: "Come up from dreams, 

old fellow. 

This won't do, you'll be sick again. These fancies 
Are nothing if you don't yield." "Keep your hand off me/' 
He said angrily. "If you can't see him clear 
Against the dark leaves of laurel: blindness is all. 
He's wearing a different coat, and his tie-pin's 
A small jade mask I never noticed before. 

Ss: quiet; he's coming towards us. ... You told me, father . . . 
Ah, Ah." The deranged man's trembling excitement 
Infected the ill-tamed colt, it sweated and shuddered 
Between Reave's knees, with hard breathings 
Cupping its ears toward the image that Mark imagined, 
But the bit and the knees held it. 

Mark, mournfully: "Then death's 
No nearer peace. No dreamlessness. That's bad." He listened 


And shrewdly answered, "Harmonized: happier, happier? 
I do wish to have faith: but your voice, father, 
Sounds flat of happiness, and all the woes of the world 
Seem hosting behind your smile. For God's sake tell me 
The honest truth." He listened, and said painfully, 
"Make me sure of it. For if the blind tugging here 
And self -contempt continue, and death's no peace, 
It would be better to live forever . . . but best, best, 
Never've been born." He listened again and said, 



"I'll try ..." Then turning to Reave; who sat like bronze, 

Half his mind grieving to hear his brother's madness, and half 

Busied with its own bitterness: "He says to warn you, 

Let his work stand. He says honor your father 

That your days may ... I have it wrong. Shortened? 

Shortened? Because death's better, I suppose. 

. . . Not to pull down his work." Reave laughed impatiently, 

Saying, "Tell that imagination I honor as much 

As I can see of him: that's nothing. A perfect ground-squirrel, 

Pop out of life for the first dog that barked 

Into the shady earth. Come down to the house 

And rest, brother. We owe him no duties 

If he were really in the wind here." He laid his hand again on 
Mark's shoulder, 

Whose loaded nerves suddenly discharging at the touch of re- 
straint struck his clenched bony fist 

To the neck of the colt; that flew a leap sidewise and three 
forward in the crackling brushwood, then breathed itself 

With vertical flights and humped bone-rigid landings. Reave 
hurt it with whip and bridle, he squeezed it tame 

Between his two knees and angrily returned. 

Mark meanwhile, 
following his vision, 

With no mind for this world, questioned it hard 
About that other, he ate its fallacious answers 
Together with his own doubts, like a starved man gulping 
The meal with the weevils. "Life's all a dream," it said, 
"And death is a better more vivid immortal dream 
But love is real; both are made out of love, 
That's never perfect in life, and the voids in it 
Are the pains of life; but when our ungainly loads 
Of blood and bone are thrown down, then the voids close, 
Love becomes perfect, all's favor and immediate joy, 
For then we are what we love." So the false prophet 
Sang sweetly, Mark was drunken with the easy ecstasy, 
But while he listened his eyes kept wavering down 


From the face to the throat of his vision, to that tie-pin 

Tipped with white jade: that also had a face, carved 

In the bright waxy stone, and was grown bigger, 

The face was Helen's. The spectre sang that love 

Must become conscious of itself and claim its own, 

Mark's gaze drifting again to the stone at its throat 

Found a cleft whiteness, for the carving reversed 

Was now the beautiful fork of female thighs, 

And the little hill: because the seer was virgin, 

Knowing only pictures of women, he saw smooth white 

What's rough in nature; but very smooth was too rough 

For that intolerant sick mind. He fled back in terror, 

Crying shrilly, "I can't. I can't. Oh, Reave, the cunning devil 

Was making traps to take me, and I have conceived 

A monstrous thing, poisoning the soul with flesh. 

Either our dead hate us or the living devil 

Was here instead." Reave followed him and coaxed him home, 

Where Helen stood in the room. They nodded to her 

Like two effigies. 

In the night Reave dreamed that Helen 
Lay with him in the deep grave, he awoke loathing her, 
But when the weak moment between sleep and waking 
Was past, his need of her and his judgment of her 
Knew their suspended duel; and he heard her breathing, 
Irregularly, gently in the dark. 


To save the redwoods under it, a rope was drawn 
From the old cable, near the end to be cut, 
To an oak a little higher than the cable-anchorage 
And fifty yards to the west; so in their falling 
The heavy steel serpent and the hanging iron skip 
Should be deflected enough to miss those highest 
And best-grown trees; the cable would be swung west 
Before the inch rope should take the whole weight and snap, 
Or, holding, be cut at leisure. 



Reave had brought up a hack-saw, 
But the blades broke on the strained steel; he wedged a wood 


In the rusty angle between the black cable and the brown con- 
crete, and worked against it with a slim file 
Until four strands were gored through and his palm bleeding; he 

pried the wires back and put Luna to work, 
Himself walking aside, testing the guide-rope's tautness, and 

somewhat wondering 
What engines his father used to sling so great weight so high: 

a man capable of that, blow out 
In the first draught of bad luck like a poor candle! 
In the open, in the fresh morning, high up the precipitous hill, his 

spirit mounted to a kind of cheerfulness; 

He had work to do; and now the sea-wind began, the wool- 
white fog on the ocean detached clouds 
Flying up the gorge of the gulf underfoot, so Thurso felt for a 

moment a little laughably godlike, 
Above the cloud-stream, hewing an old failure from the face of 

nature. Down in the gorge, from the house dooryard 
The cable and the skip could be seen high up the east, the rapid 

mist-wreaths flowing in the sky below them 
Like ice-cakes under a spidery bridge. Mark and his mother stood 

on the path to the porch, she'd brought him 
Out of his bedroom to watch the cable go down, hoping it might 

cure sick thoughts. Hester and Olvidia 
Stood, each alone, at some distance; but Helen came down from 

among the trees. Then Mark remembering 
His lawless vision trembled at her approach. 
She came and said, "Reave left the gate open, 
And the horses were coming out when I happened past. 
I never knew him to be forgetful before. 

What was he thinking of?" They looked at her, Mark with eyes 
That mutely implored pardon and fled away, 
His mother made a carefully disinterested 
Stare, and no answer. Helen stood wilfully near them, 
And said, "How long has it hung?" After a moment 
Mark answered hoarsely. And Helen: "Not more? Eighteen? 


I thought it had always hung on these hills. I've seen it myself 
Through an earthquake and some big winds, and that brush-fire 
Three years ago. When Reave tackles it, 
Down it shall come. Not the mountain-backed earth bucking like 

a bad horse, nor fire's 
Red fox-tail on the hills at midnight, nor the mad southeasters: 

nothing can do it 

But Reave Thurso, ah? That's the man we're measured against." 
The old woman considered her once more, smiled, and to Mark: 
"An inch to the mile. Dear, are you tired standing? 
Surely it will not be long now." Mark whispered to her, 
"Do you think he cares?" "Who?" "Father: his old work 
Falling from the air at last." "We'll credit the dead 
With a little more intelligence than to be troubled 
About old iron." Helen overheard her, 

And out of the uneasy malice of unhappiness: "Why credit them? 
Very likely their minds like their spoiled bodies 
Decay and go down the scale, through childish mutterings 
To poisonous imbecility, and things that seem 
Worthless to us might be to them like playthings 
Precious to children, worth spite, all they've got left . . ." 


The old woman felt Mark's anguish, and pushing by him 
Stood against Helen "weren't asked. When we're dull and want 


We'll ask you to tell us your thoughts." Helen retreated 
With looks of startled innocence, "Oh, how have I made you 

angry? I was praising your son, the other one, 
A man who masters earthquake, storm and bad horses, and has no 

fear of the dead, and can drive a truck 
With his wife in it; never reached out his hand for anything yet 

but down it came. Look up: he's there 
By the oak-tree, your strong man of this hollow, his feet on a 

cloud. He'd never falter if a thousand ghosts 
Were camped against him: but look at the size of the man: one 

of those tiny 
Black ants that come to dead things could carry him 



With the oak too. Mark, you hate cruelty and killers: do you 

know that he spent yesterday 
Poisoning squirrels? Olvidia told me. 
Poor little dusty monkeys whipped for my sins, 
Dying in agony." Mark answered hollow and slow, 
"It has to be done, I suppose. Once he told me, 
No poison no farms. He said that strychnin's 
What civilized California: there'd still be grizzlies 
And timber-wolves." "So all your sweet starts of mercy 
Tune down to that meek end. Well, Mark: some time 
San Francisco and New York and Chicago will fall 
On the heads of their ghosts, so will that cable." 

A small bright falcon, 

Invisible from the floor of the gorge, but Reave saw it 
Above the cloud-stream, shot down the shiny sky 
And lighted on the long cable above the skip, 
Folded its wings, and veered its vizarded face 
With sharp looks north and south. Reave thought, "All the birds 
Count on this ironware for as fixed as mountains, 
It was here before they were hatched in the high nests, 
Now I'll surprise him." He said, "Hand me the axe," 
For all the weight was hanging on a few cords 
Of twisted wire. He lifted the dinted axe, 

An old one for rough work. "Stand clear, Johnny," but the wires 
Were not chewed deep enough yet; the edge nicked and bent 


Into the block, the whole cable like a hive of bees 
Hummed over the gulf in the hanging air, and the hawk flew, 
But the wires held. Reave looked at the bright crescent 
Chipped in the brown axe-edge. "The old man's tough; 
But wait a minute." An instant thought of Helen 
Ran like a string of ants over his mind, 
No danger of Helen standing under the skip 
As his mother wished in her spite, but Mark's mind 
Was not secure, better look down. The trees in the canyon 
Hid the dooryard from here, and Reave went seaward 
Some twenty paces along the steep of the hill 



Through pale oak-leaves and russet ferns to see Mark standing 

By his mother, Helen beside them, foreshortened specks 

On the foot- worn patch of earth from the dark redwoods 

And the globular golden puff of the sycamore 

To the painted roofs of the house. Light mist flew over them, 

Helen lifted the pin-point white of her face, 

She looked like an incredibly small flower-stock 

Suddenly flowering. 

Johnny Luna 

Stood by the cable with a file, and looking down 
Saw the wires move like a scarred twist of worms 
In the wood they were dented into, the all but invisible 
Kinks printed in them by the steel edge straightening, 
A nicked strand broke, then all parted at once 
Very smoothly and instantly. He saw the scything rope 
That ran from the cable to the oak-tree go west 
And strike Reave standing, he was bent at the loins backward 
And flung on the face of the hill. 

Helen also saw, 

But the others watched the great cable and the skip fall, 
Obliquely in the draw of the rope, and the high oak-tree 
Rush down the hill, the arched balks and crooked thighs 
Of root in the scant soil on the near rock 
Channeled with dry-rot, proving less masterful 
Than one inch twist of hemp: so avalanchelike 
The whole tree went down to the gorge, from its great yellow 

furrow on the face of the hill 
A long track of dust blew east, above and below 
The racing clouds. 

Thus the long trough and the covering sky 
Of Mill Creek Canyon were cleared of that old cobweb, 
The black moon over the gorge was down, and the mountain lips 
Wiped clean. Helen Thurso ran up 
Under the trees, through the oak-thicket, up the glacis 
Of gray dead grass to the wreck of the oak-tree, 


And up by the long furrow of the slide to Reave's 

Body on its edge, dragged down and flung aside, 

Like a red root cut by the plow and pitched 

Forth of the furrow. He was not dead but crawling, 

His belly and legs flat to the ground, his head 

Lifted, like that lizard in the desert, and Helen saw the red ropes 

of muscle 
Labor in his great shoulder, the shirt and the skin flayed off them. 

Luna came down from above, then Helen's 
Face frightened him more than his master's body, it was white as 

lightning, eyed and mouthed with darkness, and the strained 


Whined from the pit of her lungs like a bat's cries. She stood 
Wavering, Reave crawled at her feet, the gorge glimmered below. 

"God evens things. My lover in the desert," 
She gasped, "crawled in the sand like that after Reave struck him. 

A bushel for a bushel says God exactly. 
What can we do?" Luna stood mute and helpless, the color of 

his Indian skin like pale blue slate. 
Reave crawled down hill between them; they watched the corded 

strips of flesh in his shoulder reddening and paling, 
And when he began to speak they were terrified. "Must 'a' been 

holes in my mind. Everything wrong. Won't die." 
Helen cried shrilly, "How can we get you down, where can I 

touch you?" "Hell," he said, "you'll wash." "For your pain!" 
She cried shrilly. He raised up his gray face, fantastically grown 

smaller, hewn thin and focussed 
On resistance, like a flint chip: "Can't worsen it, fool. I don't die. 

Drag." They dragged him a little way 
Down the hill and his mother came; in a flash Helen understood 

whose face it was 
That Reave's in pain resembled identically, and felt toward his old 


Her heart move in a jet of loving compassion 
Wild and lost like peering down a precipice, 
She cried "O mother!" The old woman went to Reave's head 
And carried it against her breast. Helen and Luna 



Carried his body, so they went tottering down; 

His legs dragged in the feather-gray sage until Olvidia 

And Hester came. On the steep of the slope came Mark 

Hitching up on hands and knees for his lameness. 

Helen thought, "Both her sons crawling!" and cried shrilly, 

"Get out of the way, will you. He's met somebody 

Stronger than himself. Now I forgive him, now I forgive him. 

I'd die for him." The old woman glanced at her 

With astonished hatred across Reave's head. "You forgive him!" 


Winter had begun and Reave was brought home from the 


In Monterey. Luna drove and Helen crouched 
Beside Reave's mattress in the open body of the farm-truck. 
She thought they all came by turns to ride in it: pigs and calves 

to the butcher, Hester Clark from Nevada, 
Herself from her lover and the desert mine, and again Reave 

Thurso. All compelled; all unhappy; all helpless. 
Clouds with dragging keels came in from the ocean, over Mai 

Paso bridge a thin rain began, 
Helen drew up the oil-skin over the blanket and said, "I know 

that you suffer pain day and night, 
And now the jolting of the road is torture." He was silent a time; 

his face looked like his mother's. "What of it?" 
He said suddenly. "Not to hide it from me, hidden pain's worse. 

If you trusted me . . ." "Do you think rat-gnawings 
Mean much to a man who never any more ... all the endless 

rest of his life lie flat like a cut tree . . . 
Something to think about, ah? Have food brought and be wiped, 

grow fat between a tray and a bed-pan, 
While every shiftless and wavering fool in the world 
Has walking legs. Never waste pity: the cramps and the stabbing 

are my best diversion: if they ever ended 
I'd have to lie and burn my fingers with matches. Well: day by 

day." She watched the small raindrops 
Beading his rough eyebrows and hair, and said "I'd willingly die 

for you; I have not one grain of comfort 
To answer with." 



At Sovranes Creek he began to peer about and 

look up the mountain, but dimly 
To be seen through leaning pillars of rain. "You throw off the 

oilcloth. What are you looking at, dear?" "Pasture. 
Pasture for cows." Helen saw mist-green veils tapering up the 

iron folds to the mountain-head, 
The noble slopes and the crowning pyramid, and suddenly began 

to weep aloud. He said, "I can't help it. 
You promised lightly to take the worse with the better. This is 

the worse. 

I never will let you go until you are dead. 
When you played the chippy I went and fetched you back; 
You'll never try it again." His focussed will 
Forgot to control the outthrows of bodily pain, 
He ended groaning, with convulsed lips. Helen answered, 
"I wasn't crying. I wasn't crying for myself. I will not be 
At last contemptible." And lifting her white throat 
Against the blue hills and rain: "Nothing can break you, 
It was only bones and nerves broke, nothing can change you. 
Now I've begun to know good from bad 
I can be straight too." "Hell," he said, "changed enough. 
Dead legs and a back strapped in plaster. You'll never 
Be as straight as this." Helen shivered in the rain and said, 
"What kind of a doctor was that, who leaves you suffering." 
"An honest old man. He told me plainly that the nerves of pain 
Might live, and the nerves of motion were lost. He told me, 
When I asked him, that I shall never ride, walk, nor even 
Be able to stand." She answered suddenly, "I'll never leave you 
In life or death." He smiled and his lips whitened with pain. He 

said, "How's Mark?" "Stark mad: all his gentleness 
Gone into vengeful broodings. He thinks a dead man tore up an 

oak on the mountain . . ." Reave frowned and said, 
"Exactly. With my imbecility to spring the trap. Our fathers 

build and cowardly slip out and we 
Catch the fall. Not so crazy as you think. Do you think there's 

anything beyond death, Helen? " "Yes," she answered, 
"Worms." "And sleep, without pain or waking. Don't worry, I'll 

never ease myself out by hand. The old dog 
Stinks in that alley." 



Luna drove fast; Helen leaned on her hands 

for balance in the swirling turn 
Around the cape of the road over Garapatas and said, "How did 

he kill himself? I never knew." 
Reave sharply between tight lips of suffering: "Leave that." She 

answered, "He acted cowardly and you despise him, 
But perfect courage might call death like a servant at the proper 

time, not shamefully but proudly." His mind 
At civil war in the darkness forgot to control the animal tokens 

of pain, he groaned and answered: 

"Means your freedom, ah?" "You are right," Helen said, "to ex- 
pect vileness in me: I will show you before the end 
That I am changed." "I didn't mean that. Blind bitterness. But I 

mean to stick it out, you know, and there's tempting 
Too sweet to be patient with. I say damn quitters." 

The little 
farm-truck, with its dull-smoldering sparks of sad life, 

Ran swiftly on south the wavering and twisted road on the steep 
foot of the mountain sea-wall. No life 

Ought to be thought important in the weave of the world, what- 
ever it may show of courage or endured pain; 

It owns no other manner of shining, in the broad gray eye of the 
ocean, at the foot of the beauty of the mountains 

And skies, but to bear pain; for pleasure is too little, our inhuman 
God is too great, thought is too lost. 

It drove above the long crescent beach toward Palo Colorado, 

That is lined with lonely splendor of standing wind-carven rocks, 
like a chariot-racetrack adorned with images, 

Watched by the waving crowds and clamor of the sea, but there 
are no chariots. Thurso's Landing 

Stood heavy-shouldered in the south beyond. 


After some days 
and nights Reave called for Luna. 

Helen fetched him, Reave instructed him to choose two fence- 

And whittle handles on the ends, and nail cross-pieces 



To make a stretcher. An old tarpaulin was cut 

For canvas, which Helen sewed over and bound with fishline 

Between the two rails. Reave had thought carefully, 

There was no reason for being jailed in the house, 

There were things he was bound to bear, that was not one of 


Helen and Olvidia each holding a handle, 
And Luna at the other end, carried him forth 
Heavily, of fantastic shape and weight 
With the plaster girdle about his loins: like a stone man, 
Petrified man, was echoing in Helen's mind 
While she labored with the weight, "Does everything I dream 

come true?" 

They laid him on a low bank near the corral, 
Where he could turn his head and at times 
See horses in the muddy enclosure. Or see tall redwoods, 
And if he wished, the long narrow canyon sky, 
Reminding him what its clearance had cost. 

One day that Helen 

Was bringing his lunch from the house, she saw Mark 
Waiting in her path; she went about him to avoid him, 
Feeling unable at length to hear his troublesome 
Mysteries with patience, and approached Reave 
An unusual way, unseen and silently, on the new grass 
Around a thicket. She saw the whitened knuckles 
Of his heavy-boned hands over his breast, 
One clutching the other, and then the fists beaten together 
Like stones, and heard a high helpless moaning. She stole back 
And broke through the branches into her accustomed path, 
To go to him lying quiet and watching stolidly 
While she came near. She trembled and set the tray on the 

And said, "May I shift the pillows under you?" He answered, 

rolling his head, 
"I can shift them. Look here." The bluish bruised look of his 

face darkened, that the gray eyes 



Looked white in it, his thick neck swelled; he was raising himself 

upward with prodigious pain and effort by the thrust 
Of his elbows backward against the earth, saying harshly, "I am 

not helpless." He clutched his hands in the soil 
And slowly with immobile face and no groan lay down. She felt 

in her breast like the rush of a big bird 
Flying from a covert and the threshing wings: "If I'd never been 

here," she said, "nothing would have been the same." 
She knew that she ought to be silent, she could not cease, crying 

"You'd not be hurt, you'd be riding on the hill. I wish I had died 

in misery before you saw me, 
I wish you had seen me first lying five days dead in the jagged 

mountain, blackening on a white rock 
In a dry place, the vultures had dipped their white beaks in my 

eyes, their red heads in my side, 
You'd make them raise the great wings and soar, you'd see my 

bowels drawn out of my body and the rock stained under me 
And the soil of death, I was lying black-mouthed in the filth of 

death. You'd not have wanted me then, and nothing 
Would be as it is, but you'd be lucky and I quiet." He looked 

in her eyes and smiled, with that bruised look, 
Not hearing, bent inward on his own pain; but after a time he 

seemed to remember that she spoke of death 
And said angrily: "Have you death for sale, you talk like a sales- 

Every fool knows it's pleasant to rot in peace 
After long pain but that's not the question. 
I saw a nigger boxer in Monterey one night, 
Cut all to pieces, 

Sail on up the wind of fists, beaten and blinded, 
Vomiting blood: he needed only let down 
His knees onto the canvas and be at peace, 
He wouldn't do it. I say I cared for that man; 
He was better than a better fighter." 




Reave's doctor came to break the cast from his body; Helen 

helped, and washed the ill-smelling 
Long-enclosed flesh. Afterwards while Reave rested she spoke 

with his mother in another room. "You saw him. 
The giant shoulders and the pitiful part below. I know that he 

has hoped secretly to live again . . . 
Ride a horse . . . he'll never sit up in bed. What can we do?" 

She answered with a like contorted face, 
But not twitching like Helen's: "There were two oaks broken 

that morning. What can you do? Run away. 
Follow that Hester. You and she are out of employment 
When a man's withered from the waist down." She answered, 

"Yet I was thinking there's . . . another kindness 
That I could do for him. Another that his mother can't." "What?" 

she said fiercely. "Nothing, nothing, nothing," 
Helen faintly answered. "However, I'll never leave him. I prom- 
ised him never to leave him and I've grown faithful 
At last." She felt the old woman's eyes like flints press on her 

own, she shuddered and said, "I know 
You hate me: let our spites lie, we're both unhappy. Tell me 

something, if you know, what's all this troublesome 
Affair of living, and people being troubled and the sun rising 

and setting: what's it all about, what's it for? 
I've seen you go on bitterly year after year, living, planning, 

working: do you know something 
That's hidden from the weak like me? Or it's only 
Gloomy stubbornness like Reave's blind ... or else perhaps 

we live for no other reason than because our parents 
Enjoyed their pleasure and we dread to die? / dread it," she said 

with her hands at her throat, "so ... I can't bear it, 
But Reave's too proud. I mean, if the pain ceases, if his pain ceases 

at last . . . then I can't imagine. 

But if the pain keeps up I must do it." "What can you do 
But run away off? You're not the make. I wish 
He could see your slobbered face, Helen, he'd hardly 
Have hunted into Arizona to fetch it home, 



Do what then?" Her mouth shuddered and tautened, she answered, 

"I cannot tell." "I believe you," she answered scornfully. 

Helen stood moving her sad lips in silence 

Like one casting a sum of numbers, and said, 

"I must have read it somewhere: a hundred and twenty-three 

Millions in this one country of the world, besides the animals. 

Far more in Asia. How can it be sacred 
Being so common? I've never hated you back for hating me; 

Pve called you Mother; now if you'd help me 
To know what's right I'd be grateful." The old woman with 

eyes like a hawk's watching 
A bush of sparrows: "Tell me then." "For now it seems to me 

that all the billion and a half of our lives on earth, 
And the more that died long ago, and the things that happened 

and will happen again, and all the beacons of time 
Up to this time look very senseless, a roadless forest full of cries 

and ignorance. But is life precious 
At the worst you know? I used to wish for round jewels and a 

fur cloak: I could love opals, 
Born in October: and a set of gay laughing friends to fool with, 

and one of those long low stream-lined cars 
That glide quietly and shine like satin: so I can't say, whether 

life maybe might 'a' been precious 
At the best. And death's awful. . . . We're too closed-in here." 

"If you think of killing yourself": she laughed, 
Lifting her shoulders. Helen looked down and said, 
"How did . . . Reave's dad do it?" "In the forehead, poor fool, 
And was long dying." "In the heart would have been better?" 
"You must find out for yourself." "I wasn't thinking of myself; 
I'm faithful now." "To the death? Ah? 
A new color for you, worn strangely." 

She went through the house 

To her son's room. Helen followed, saying, "Go quietly, 
And listen." They tip-toed down to hear a thin moaning 
Increase and break off; then hands beat on the bed 
In the room behind the shut door; a silence followed, 
And again the moaning. The old woman rolled her gray head 



And whispered, 'Til not awake him." But Helen: "If that is 


Then life's a dream." She touched the door-handle 
And the room was full of silence; they entered, Reave lay 
Stolid and strong, meeting them with calm eyes 
Blood-shot around the gray-blue. Helen said faintly, 
"May I turn you now?" He said "What meanness in you 
Is always making me out worse than I am? Helpless enough, 
But not to that point." The old woman went to the window 

and looked down the canyon; then turning: "Helen talks 

She says that she's now faithful. What does that mean, do you 

think?" Reave answered, "I know she is, and I pay it 
With cross impatiences: I'm sorry, Helen." "Oh, but you'd never 

guess," the mother said furiously, 
"How far that reaches, this kind of faithfulness. She's likely had 


From the yellow-haired man, because . . ." Helen said sharply, 
"That man is dead." Reave strained up his head, groaning, 
"Who told you? Everything slips away. I was hopeful still 
To touch him with my hands. He might have come near me 
Sometime to mock my ruin. . . ." The old woman said, 
"How could she hear? She's lying, I watched her mouth." "Reave 

killed him," 
Helen said patiently; "only by waiting for him and he didn't 

come, beat him to corrupt earth, 
Dust and a wind. Oh Reave, be at peace 
For anything you owed there." "She was lying again," 
The mother said, "but a moment ago in the other room 
Her truth came out. This white, violet-eyed thing 
Would if she dared murder you: Oh, from high motives, 
All mercy and good will like a lamp in a window, but mostly 


Whether a dutiful wife will shoot her man 
In the head or the heart." Helen had cried out to speak, 
But checked herself and watched Reave; he answered heavily, 
His light eyes withstanding his mother's dark ones: "We've talked 

it over, 



But I have forbidden her." Then Helen cried, "Don't send me 

I believe you will never need me: but God's not moderate enough 

to trust, and when he turns bad, no one 
Can bear him to the end." He answered, "That's cowardly said; 

there's nothing a man can't bear. Push my bed 
To the window and let me look out westward." They moved 

his bed; in the mouth of the gorge the evening sea-cloud 
Hung heavy black, Jeoparded all over with sanguine fire-spots; 

he muttered wearily, "We're too closed-in here. 
I lie like a felled log in a gully and women wrangle above me. 

I have no power and no use 

And no comfort left and I cannot sleep. I have my own law 
That I will keep, and not die despising myself." 

The stormy twi- 
light closed over and filled the canyon 

And drowned the house, and the ocean made a great noise in 
the dark, crying up the canyon; with between the cries 

Noises like trespassers breaking fences, or the cattle running. 

Helen slept in a room by herself, 
For Thurso wanted no witness to hear his nights of endured 

pain, and had sent her from the low couch 
Beside his bed, to use the little room that Hester Clark had 

been glad of. 

She fell asleep for a moment and lay an hour 
Terribly awake, and went down the stair, having a candle 
In both her hands, the right hooding the flame 
That etched red lines between the dark fingers, 
The left holding the shaft, and the white grease 
Dripped hot films on it. She went barefoot and silently 
With the one piece of linen about her, hearing 
The stairs groan like a man, and stole through the house 
To a distant closet where vermin-traps and squirrel-poison, 
Hunting-gear and a smell of leather were kept. She sought her 

own rifle 
In that close place, meaning to hide it in her bed 



Between the springs and the mattress, knowing that no one 

Commands life without the tools of death 

Readily hid in the background. She loaded in 

New cartridges with glittering brass jackets, for oil 

Or time might have damped the old; and turned to the door. 

Mark stood in the door. 

But Helen thought that the strain in her mind had bred a 

And waited for it to fade. 

He said, "A thready light 

Pricked into my room through the cracked panel. 
I think my mind has been roiled, when I lie wakeful 
Blades of strange light. Are you going hunting? 
Dear Helen let the deer feed. Life's bad for people, 
But the clean deer, that leap on the high hills 
And feed by the hollow streams, there's not one of them 
Lame nor a fool." She answered in her mind, "Nothing 
Is very serious," and said, "Ah, there's one hurt one, 
Would thank me kindly, if it had a man's brain, 
For death, that great fallen stag." "Where is it? I'll feed it 
With tender grass." "It fell on the mountain and its broken bones 
Have caught the nerves in their hard lumps of healing, 
So that it's in pain forever: I hate . . . love him too. 
Love him, I said." "If you kill any living 
Creature, the happiness of your heart is troubled 
In quiet times afterwards." "What's that to me? 
I shall have no quiet time after this hunting; 
But brief and violent. Let me go now." He answered, 
"I know what love is, I saw it in the devil's tie-pin. 
How dared you come down undressed?" She saw him shaking 
In the candle-light, and thought with a thread ravelled 
From her mind's gathering fire-mist, "You poor good fool, 
Is it there with you?" He said, "Horrible dreams of love 
Like splintered glass in my bed cut me all night, like a splintered 

Reave betrayed you with that pale bright doll." He came from 

the doorway toward her, then Helen laughed and dipped 



Her hand in a half sack of barley on the shelf, and felt the kernels 

light and luxuriously 

Lie in her fingers, and said through white lips: "Is this the poison- 
soaked grain? that makes the squirrels cry 
In the quiet of their little caves, that bitter death?" "Let it alone. 

Oh, this place crawls with death, 
Traps, guns, knives, poisons: but no one sleeps near, no one can 

bear us. There's a bright wanting beast in me: 
Hunt that, Helen. Kill that. I thought love 
Was kindness, it's a blind burning beast. Oh, wait: because I 

heard voices and answered them, saw spirits and feared 

You and the rest were whispering that I was crazy. Why, that 

was nothing. But now, when I burn to tear 
That last white rag from you, and dohow can I say it? striking 

the obscene parts of our flesh together 
This is the real thing, this is the madness." She laughed and ran 

her fingers through the deadly barley and answered: 
"Yours is a common trouble, we'd manage you a kind cure 
If I were liberal; but you'd loathe me for it, and my winter's come. 

I wish to leave my poor spotted memory 

A little lonely and distinct at this bitter end. Is it nearly morn- 
ing?" "Do you think . . ." he answered, and suddenly 
The pallor of his face gleamed with a film of sweat, he said "I've 

fooled myself out of life for fancy 
Feelings and second-hand noble dreams. Kill all the deer on the 

mountain, what's that to me? I've seen them 
Go to it like dogs in the bushes outside the cantonment: wise 

soldiers: did you think you could come naked 
And not be mauled?" She said furiously, 
"You fool," and heard him hiss when he touched her breast and 


"The lids of your eyes are swollen, your eyes are knives. 
This is it. Yes." His teeth clattered together so that she thought 

of a crooked stone the returning 
Wave sucks, and the stone rolls over and over, clashing on the 

pebbles. He wiped his forehead with his hand and shook 



The fingers as if blood hung on them, saying, "That Hester's 

gone. I might have had a second-hand . . . 
Noble thought very likely. 

Tell the audience for all those cat-calls there's not one of them 
But's more or less in my manner 
Done out of his dear life by scrupulous cowardices. 
Men ought to ravage: then down comes the black curtain, 
We died like old empty priests." But Helen seeing him 
All shrunken again, "Believe me," she said in pity, 
"These rosy toys youVe missed make a bad bargain 
At the time of the end. I could be very envious 
Of virgins and a quiet life." "The two youVe had 
Are nothing," he answered, "take two hundred. But only 
Beware not to make a baby, we know what life is: 
That mercy's weakness, and honesty 
The simple fear of detection; and beauty, paint; 
And love, a furious longing to join the sewers of two bodies. 
That's how God made us and the next wars 
Will swallow up all. . . . Helen, I'm very tired 
With cloudy thoughts, and have been fearful at times 
Of falling into some unclearness of mind. 
That would be bad: lunacy's worse than death. 
If I should consider taking a certain remedy 
While I'm still sane, to scour the rancid bowl 
Back to its first brightness, who could be blamed? 
You've always been kind beyond words." 

He went, and Helen 

At once forgot him, all her energy reverting 
To its old preoccupation like a freed spring, 
She took the rifle to hide it below her mattress 
And barefoot stilly went up through the house. 

She passed Reave's door. 

And returned again to listen whether he moaned 
Or slept. No sound appeared, but wind or the ocean 
Whispering high over the house. In that silence 
Her intention flowered; she became calm, convinced 



That time had come to cut all the knots at once 
And lead the agonies of strain to a sharp end. 
Mark's outcry, though she forgot him, had tired her, 
The resistances of a drained spirit faint 
Before the power does, she had lost the strength not to act 
And stealthily unlatched the door. It seemed clear, plain 
And reasonable, to seal that heavy sleep 
From ever waking to worse; but having planted 
The candle upon the chest by the door, and drawing 
Down the steel barrel the three points to one line, 
She met his eyes wide open, broad and inhuman, like the uni- 
versal eyes of night, judging 

And damning her act, with remote absolute merciless compre- 
hension. She was like a touched sleepwalker, 
Unnerved and annihilated: what contemptible 
Distraction had made the reasons of her dream? and Reave: 
"Come closer. You'd botch it from there, and I'd be days 
Dying or not, cursing you for a fool." 
She leaned and shuffled toward him. 

She felt her neck 

Wrenched by the buffet, and lukewarm blood wandering 
From her mouth down the left side of her throat and tasted 
The thick salt sweetness, and Reave saying furiously, "Sneak in 

behind me 
Fighting on my last inch? I never struck you before, you earned 

it enough." She mumbled, 
"It doesn't hurt . . ." "Trust you," he said, "to side with my 

enemy." His great hands, and the white knuckles 
Like peaks among the black hairs, blazed in the lit center of 

the orbital darknesses that hooded her eyes. 
His hands had her little rifle and were strained to break it, but the 

great strength that she believed could do anything 
Failed after all. Snapping and whining with pain like a wounded 

dog he shifted over on his elbows 
And thrust the barrel under the board of the bedside, drew up 

against his own weight, and the splitting stock 



Ripped from the steel. "That's yours," he said gasping. "Go call 

Luna." She felt the pain of her lips swelling, 
Cut on the dog-tooth edge, and the blood on her throat, and 

muttered, "It doesn't hurt." "You red and white 
Barber's-pole," he said, "fetch Johnny Luna. 
We'll have a disarmament here." "What?" "Light the lamp and 

Your light and fetch him." "What? Oh, oh!" she cowered and 

knelt down against the bedside, "don't send me away. 
I'll promise never ... I promise . . ." "You'll not be sent away, 

I'll not let you go." "How could I sleep," 
She prayed, not hearing him, "or lie down, or live, in another 

place, not knowing 
How you were, and never see you nor touch you?" "You lie," 

he groaned, "or you're changed. 
Be sure I'll not let you go. I am not changed." 
She clenched a fold of the coverlet and stammered, "/ am not 


I was only ignorant. When the idiot body and perverse 
Imagination went whoring . . . then still whatever it is 
That loves was weeping here." 

Reave's old mother 

Stood in the door, her corded bare throat thrust 
From the fold of a brown cloak, and dull-white wisps 
Starring her head; the noise of the broken gun-stock 
Had beckoned her from a dream. "Praying is she? Religion's 
Their last trick . . ." She saw the blood-streak, and blazing 
Went and dragged up Helen's face, one hand in the hair, 
One at her throat, saying "What have you done, you . . . 
It's your own, is it? That's better." Reave said, "Let her alone. 
I called and she came running asleep, in the dark, 
She struck her face." The old woman looked down the candle- 

At the rifle-barrel and the splintered stock, and said, 
"You are still strong." "But can't run my own errands. 
Wash yourself," he said to Helen; "light the lamp; 
Go and call Johnny." 


When Helen was gone, the old mother: 
"Tell me what she was doing." He rolled his shoulders 
And groaned, striking his hand down at his thigh. 
"Would you believe this fixed and passive flesh 
Has red hot wire in it? What nights." "Why have you sent for 


At midnight?" "To amuse me awhile. Get to bed, mother, 
Before the aching night strikes to your bones. 
I had an inflamed throat 
After that fall of rain, all my discomforts 
Turned fiery then. . . . Oh, if you need, I'll tell you. 
We've rifles and a shotgun, but nobody 
Will ever go hunting from here again, and to save oiling 
He's to break the guns. They call it disarmament. I dreamed 
The old dog that was your husband and my father 
Stood in a cave-mouth calling; and, to speak exactly, 
I'll not be tempted." 


The house in the deep gorge 
Had been darkened again. One of those night-birds that cry in 

quickening rhythm like the rattle of a spun plate falling 
Cried, then the silver streak southeast loosed a slight moon. A few 

of the house-windows feebly glittered 
Back its honied light; the massed black obelisks of redwood 

utterly ignored it, but the leafless leaning sycamore 
Shone like a trunked and branched moon on the dark wood, 

a tree made wholly of luminous lunar material, 
Except one long hanging shadow. The clouds took the moon 

again, the sycamore vanished, the dream in the eyes 
Of the house died; and imperceptibly a twilight began to exist, 

without wind or color, or foam 
Of a formal cloud, but misty rain fell. A faintly more curded 

mist-wreath flowed from a chimney and down 
The house-roof valleys, it spread earthling dissolving, and sensi- 
tive wild nostrils up the great gorge 
Tasted the oak-smoke and coffee fragrance of a waking house. 

The world lightened, the rain increased. 



A broad brown face peered from a window, a woman whose 

blood had known this coast for ten thousand years 
Perceived a strangeness of shape in that moony sycamore. She 

had work in hand, but an hour later she poured 
Coffee for Mark Thurso, who'd not come down yet, and set it 

with his egg back of the stove and went 
To empty the grounds into the willows. She hooded her head 

against the rain with an apron, but returning 
Saw the sycamore framed in the apron-fold 
And it looked dreadful. She approached and found Mark hanging 
Long-necked, very wet with rain. She stood at some distance, 
Mournfully, with the coffee-pot in her hand, 
Thinking the grounds were bad for chickens, but this 
Rainy morning she might have mixed them with the other 

Not gone out, and seen nothing. She went and washed plates 

and cups, 

Wishing for Johnny, but he was busy in the barn. 
The rain fell on the barn roof, the rain fell . . . everywhere . . . 
And no one could sleep: smashing rifles all night. 
Old Mrs. Thurso went in and out; Olvidia 
Trembled each time, but after going to the privy 
Was more composed in her mind. 

The soft beneficent rain hung 

on the hills without flowing down 
And filled the soil to the rock, all it could hold; it lay on the 

shore, it sweetened the bitter sea, 
It dripped from every bough of the forest, and from the feet of 

the dead man and his hands and his chin, 

It glazed his pale-blue face, and glazed the great seaward rock- 
face of Thurso's Landing, and each green leaf 
And grass-blade south by the coast to Point Conception; and 

north into Oregon; so long an island of cloud, 
Blinding white above, dark and dove-purple below, rained on 

a thousand miles of the continent's edge; 
The old savage brood-mare, the earth, drank strength and forgot 

her deserts. Helen Thurso 



Walked in Reave's room and looked out the window, and the 

ivory tree 

Seemed to have borne in the rain enormous fruit. 
She covered her mouth, through incredulous fear feeling 
The bulge of her bruised lip, and left the room 
Silently; she met Reave's mother carrying a white 
Bundle of linen that glimmered down the dark passage, 
And said, "Have you seen Mark?" She answered jealously 
"What do you want?" "Oh, oh. If he's in his room. 
I was thinking about the rain, I haven't seen him this morn- 
ing ... 

My eyes are sick." She passed and felt the smell 
Of the freshly ironed linen mix with her fear, 
And came to Olvidia in the hot kitchen 
Stroking the iron on the board. "Come to the door 
For God's sake, for the windows are blind with rain. 
In the sycamore tree?" The Indian hung back, mumbling 
"Might 'a' been a mountain-lion or a big hawk," and Helen 
Dragged her by the wrist, but the old mother 
Had followed and heard, and when they came to the door 
She was at the foot of the tree. They heard her cry 
Three times, a dry scream more goshawk's than woman's. 
Helen breathed and said "Reave has heard that. I ... 
Get a knife." She ran to the tree; where Mark's mother 
Stood stiffly quiet by the grotesque legs 
And said, "I can't reach. He is the one I loved." 
Helen began to clamber at the tree, her knees 
Slipping on the wet bark and her fingers 
On the ivory bough, the old woman said harshly, "Make no 

show of yourself. 
He's been long dead and will not admire you. This one is mine, 

my servants will help me. Stand off, you." 
Helen looked back at her face and saw Olvidia and Luna coming; 

she looked at the dead man's face 

And said, "Oh, good-bye," and looked down quickly. "I will go 
to Reave," she said trembling. 



She went to his room. 

The bed-covers were trailed on the floor and he at the window 

Hung like a broken snake, his hands on the sill lifting his head 
to the glass. He turned toward her, 

Wrinkled like a fighting mastiff with rage and pain, saying "That 
dead dog." She shivering and shrill cried out 

"No!" but he said, "The dead dog that walks in the wood, that 
he used to talk to, has done this: too shot with cowardice 

To live, and too envious to let his sons. Praising death. Oh my 
poor brother, 

If you lived in the hell of pain and impotence 

That I inhabit, yet you oughtn't to have yielded. It was some- 
thing to see the envy slaver with hunger 

And not be fed." Then Helen said faintly, half borne into be- 
lief by Reave's passion, "Oh, have you seen him?" 

The great strained shoulders began to fail, the hooked fingers to 
slip on the painted sill, "Felt him," he said, 

Angularly falling. 

Unable to lift his weight, she dragged it 
To the side of the bed, and heaved up the dead half 
Of his body, and he the living. She fell over against him 
In the strain of lifting, his violent hands held her 
Like a lover's, hurting her breasts against his ribs, she felt a 

ghastliness in him 

But forced her charged nerves to make no resistance 
And kissed his cheek with her bruised mouth, the hardening 
Muscles of his jaw hurt that. "Fool," he said hoarsely. 
"Have you forgotten? You'll have to learn to endure 
A starved life for a hot woman." She stood up 
And saw his lips bluish and compressed and his eyes blunted. 

"Our loves now, 

Ah," he said, "a little too heavy. A wrench of pain 
For the consummation. 

Pain is the solidest thing in the world, it has hard edges, 
I think it has a shape and might be handled, 
Like a rock worn with flat sides and edges, harder than rock, but 
Like love it can hardly last more than fifty years. 



Mark is dead. He'd not have yielded in his right mind. 

Go help my mother." Helen said, "She drove me away. 

He was always faithful and kind. Oh, oh, what shore 

Are we sailing toward, with such wrecks for the sea-marks? 

Dear, you didn't dream I meant to outlive you? Our poor brother 

Did very wisely though I wish ... I can hardly remember 

The time when death used to seem terrible to me: 

I've worse fears now. But if the whole world should be burned 

Our brother, whom we loved well, is safe." 


Reave sighed, 

And said, "Go and tell her to send Luna. 
He'll have to ride to Lobos, there's no telephone 
Nearer. To let the coroner know. Oh God, why bother? 
I used to have legs and do my own business. 
Do you believe in a God?" "I didn't use to." 
"Well? Now do you?" "We've less reason to. Yes. 
There's not a tinge of goodness in the whole world, 
But war in my mind and agony in yours, and darkness 
Over the sea and the heights and all bright spirits 
Forsake the earth. We've excellent cause 
To know there's none: but there is." "Go to church then. 
A torturer then." He wiped his forehead and said, 
"Another dead dog to bite us. What, that sits calmly 
Above the stars, and sees the old woman lose both her sons for 

nothing, one in a dirty noose 
And the other like a broken stick on a dung-hill; then smiles over 

the sea to China on a million people 
Dying of hunger, the lucky ones sold their children for tufts of 

grass and die with green teeth, God pats 
His baby hands together and looks down pleasantly. No, the 

world's not so comic as that: I'll tell you 
What the world's like: like a stone for no reason falling in the 

night from a cliff in the hills, that makes a lonely 
Noise and a spark in the hollow darkness, and nobody sees and 

nobody cares. There's nothing good in it 


Except the courage in us not to be beaten. It can't make us 

Cringe or say please." "Dear," she answered, 

"Where would the weakness be in kicking off a random and 


Darkness like that? Strength doesn't suffer for nothing, 
Strength would refuse to suffer for nothing, but choose its times 
To live or die." "Listen," he said; "there's a silver spoon 
With my initials on it in a drawer somewhere. 
When I was five years old I saw my father 
Use it in his mouth: I never would touch it again. 
No doubt it stinks." Tenderly she answered, 
"You have great hands: I love you: kill me first, 
And then eat with my spoon. It would be wine and honey, 
Oh sweet, sweet, after this life." He laughed angrily 
And moaned and said, "Let's talk sense if we talk. 
I'll not have him buried here and put him forever 
In the black dog's power: superstitious as you: 
To Monterey, some old graveyard 
Where decent people are lying beside each other 
And a rose turns from the sea. 

". . . Mother," he said, 
She entering the room, "your loss is hard. 
There's nothing. We must take our pain and live in it." Her 


More like dry flints than ever, "Can you read this," 
She said, holding a rag of sodden paper, 

"My sight fails, and the rain has washed it, pinned to his coat." 
She gave it to Reave, he holding it against the light 
Said wearily, "Read it, Helen." Sick pencil-marks 
On death-cold paper: she read in a brittle voice: 
"I fear insanity. Forgive this ugly sight, 
Dribbling and screeching would be an uglier sight, 
Or to do something worse. Oh, why did you go away, 
Why did you come back? 
My only cause for this act is fear of madness. 
That must be stated clearly. No other cause. Dear love, 



Come soon, this room is purer." Helen's voice fainted on the 

final words. 

She fixed her eyes on the old mother's and said, 
"It was written to you." Who answered harshly, "/ did not go 

away nor come back. Her tricks of nature 
Have made their misery again. I never hated her enough." Helen, 

without moving: "How could I care 
Who hates me or not, when I think about him writing that in 

the night? He often made notes for thoughts 
With a stub pencil," she bit her lip not to weep, and suddenly 

the tears rained down. The old mother: "Ah, Reave? 
We have to face it: she fished for him too. If I'd married a 

stronger man my sons might have outlived me, 
But a woman from nowhere comes and burns you like wax. 

Give me that paper." Helen gave it and the wet slip 
Tore in the taking. Reave said, "Snatch, sea-gull. Be a little quiet 

over my head, pain's worn me thin, 
And Mark's dead in the house. We're sorry for you, 
Mother. As for that message, it has no meaning but the pity in 

it." The old woman looked young, with the angry 
Color on her cheek-bones; Helen looked aged and pale, saying, 

"Very likely it is quite true that I brought 
Misery in both my hands, unwillingly. I am much to be blamed 

for all our miseries. I can bear it. 
But while the night darkens, and God closes his hand on this 

house, and there's no help, I might do well at last 
What you can't do. After that I'll submit meekly, whether you 

wish to punish me or please to say 
Some merciful thing." 

Reave opened his eyes and said, 
"Mark's not to be buried here, this is the dog's ditch. 
He'd 'a' lived long if he hadn't walked in the woods. 
If you have to sell horses to buy a grave to the north, there's a 

little colt 
That has no name, I'm fond of him, I rode him before the fall." 

His mother stared, saying "Who buys horses?" 



He answered, "He's not for sale, I'll not have it. I hunted the 

desert for him 
When he strayed, and brought him back. Are you all ganged 

against me 
With the devil in the woods?" The old woman touched him and 


"Reave. Nobody will sell your horses. There's no buyer. 
You're tired." He answered, "Not tired: but to say it plainly: 
In hell, in hell. ... I have talked foolishness. 
I can bear twice as much. Go back to Mark, mother. 
He needs ... I remember." The women stood side by side 
Gazing at his locked face, the mother weaving 
Her thin hands together, having that rainy paper 
Crushed between the two palms, but Helen stone still; then 


Drew down the lids over his staring eyes 
And made a thin careful smile. The old woman suddenly 
Sighed and went out. 

Reave drew loud breath and his eyes 
Opened, fastened on Helen's: "Don't let her come in again. 
I'd hate to tell her. She's much to be pitied too. Never let her 

know," he said craftily, 
"That she's the cause. She lay with my enemy, all springs from 

that. I believe you'd never dream it, to look at her, 
She'd do such things. Has it cleared?" She stammered "What 

what?" "Go to the window," he said, "and look out, and see 
Whether the rain has stopped yet." She went and said, "No." 

"It is clearing eastward?" "All dark. Some wind moves 
The sky-ridge trees." "Rain or not"; and after a moment, "Did 

you notice anything," he said, "Helen, disordered 
In what I said lately?" "I know you suffer 
Overpowering pain at times." "Hm? Not a bit. Firm as a rock. 

. . . Listen, Helen: 

My pride and I have agreed: I can bear this punishment, 
But I don't have to." She thought he had yielded and was willing 

to die; 



That he was beaten seemed to be breaking her heart, that he 

would die terrified her, that his useless pain 
Would find its goal in peace was a great sheaf of good; so three 

ways stricken, white and faint: and the undertow 
Unconscious enmity that never died from her mind tearing her 

too with its exultation: "Oh," 
She whispered, "what change?" "Why should I refuse the means 

to relieve it?" 

He said defiantly. "I'm like in the sea's gut here, 
Weighed down with tons of green thick water: while above the 


Clean and alive. We're too closed-in here." He paused, 
His eyes glassed and hands clenched. "A twinge. Don't imagine 
I'm running from the dead dog: we'll make a bonfire 
Of his platforms on the rock-head some night. 
That's my one point in life now: to clean out 
Trace and shape and smell of him and leave the canyon 
Virgin if fire and dynamite can do it. 
In summer when the ground hardens we'll slash 
A driveway up to the kilns and blow them clean 
By the foundations. Have you told him yet?" "What?" she 


"What! bring it to the door." "Dear, I'm dull with sadness, 
I can't see to your mind." "Have I not told you 
Three times already? The truck, the truck, the motor-truck. 
The thing that runs on four wheels. Tell him tell Luna 
To bring it to the door and help you load on your cripple, 
So I'll taste air to-day." "Where?" "Where it's widest, 
And the ocean and hills are clear to be seen, 
On the Landing: the rock-head: up there." "Oh, Oh, that's in 

the sky. 

That's well thought." She trembled violently and said, 
"I'll do my part. It's noon: 

First you must eat, though Mark's dead in the house. 
Then we'll go up to the rock. It seems long 
Since morning." He said, "To-morrow they'll need the motor 
To take my brother . . . who has died, as you say. Akh, do 





"You'll need the jack and a shovel, Johnny Luna, 

For the ground's rotten with rain; and an axe 

For brushwood no doubt has grown up in the old road. 

Yet another thing: 

There was a man named Rick Armstrong: do you remember? 

He's dead quite lately. He died too. The world's 

Full of that kind of thing." She pressed her hand 

On the reeling pulse in her throat and said, "I'll tell you. 

He drove too fast at the Salinas River bridge, 

Suddenly his sins came on him and swerved the wheel 

Over the concrete, he rolled with his car 

And got his life bumped out in the willow-bushes. 

Do you understand? It will please my husband, 

For he was his bitter enemy: but if 7 told him 

I might not be believed. 

I am very anxious to make him feel . . . contentment 

Before he ... sleeps, because he suffers great pain 

And has no joy nor hope. Johnny, you'll help me 

For love of him, and I'll give you this ring besides. 

I wore it through all my ventures, bought long ago 

With money I earned. I paid twelve dollars for it, 

You can get three no doubt: the stone's nothing, 

But the hoop's gold. Take it please. 

I've nothing else of any priceable value 

Except my marriage ring: I'll die in that, 

Though stained, some acid. What you must do is, tell him 

About Rick Armstrong's death, as I told it to you, 

To make him happier; but say the Vasquez boys 

Told you, not I. Everyone's talking about it, 

He was well known on the coast; he worked, you know, 

With the road-builders. Mind the jack and the spade, 

And the hand-axe: he's half mad with pain 

Or he'd not want to go up. Why, the rain's stopped," 

She said, and sobbed once and smiled. "That's a grand sign. 

Ah don't forget how Rick Armstrong died." 



Reave's mother heard 
The motor stammer to the house-door, and spin and stop. She 

stood up beside her own bed, 
On which she had had her dearest laid down, and had never 

ceased to arrange the body, to make it seem 
Happily asleep if she could; having dried it with a warm towel 

and washed the rain-stains, and dressed her son 
In clean night-clothes, covering the throat: she looked at the 

bed with unmoistened eyes like a mother falcon, 
And went downstairs to the door; Luna was entering. "Who 

ordered this? Take it back to the shed. 

He will stay in my house with me to-night: if we go to-morrow 
To another place, 7 will tell you, not that woman." Helen came 

while she spoke, and Luna 
Looked from her face to hers, as a boatman 
From the rock shore to the driving sea. Helen said, "We must 

take the bedding first, it is ready." 
The old mother: "You're very confident suddenly. You think 

you've made enough wretchedness to break my mind and 

make you 
Commander here." Helen, vaguely, in her own thought snared: 

"What? No. Is a wind blowing, the trees on the cloud 
Look hunched: and all my strength's gone: Oh mother, 
Tell Reave to wait! Comfort him." "Reave?" She turned and 

went toward his room, then Helen remembered that sud- 

He seemed to dislike his mother: "Don't go in to Reave: 
Oh, I was wrong," and followed her; and Luna followed 
The two women. Helen said to Luna: "Take out the mattress 

and the covers: we'll have to go." The old mother 
To Reave: "You called for that? Did you tell me you were going 


And I missed hearing?" His eyes avoided her, he answered: 
"I'm going to the head of the rock to smell the rain. 
Why not? I can't make Mark live 
By smothering here." "The rock?" "Uh, what y' call the Landing. 



I believe the air's free there." He closed his eyes 

And fists, and smiled. Helen said sharply to Luna: 

"The little package is mine: let it lie, Fll take it. 

Bread and meat." Reave's mother looked back and saw 

Her throat shuddering and swallowing as strained with sickness 

At the thought of food. "Why: how long are you staying up 

"While our ... the light lasts," she answered, and swallowed, 

and said, 

"Olvidia's here if you need anything." The mother: 
"Reave. This is not in your line, to run off from trouble. 
She leads you I think." "Run?" He rolled his head on the thick 

neck. "Run, 
To a man with no legs. And she leads me: you are very greedy 

to make humiliation perfect, ah? 
/ might have a grudge too . . . wi' that dog . . . ugh. Mother, 

You endure something and so do I: but bodily pain is ignoble 

and soils the mind. If ever 
I should talk wildly ... no danger: I can bear much more than 

anything yet . . . you'll not take it to heart, 
Put it aside as just foam and nothing. I love you and respect you, 

and when you are bitter with me I know 
How life has used you. 
About the other thing: have you ever known me to turn back 

from something begun? I've grown touchy, 
But not all changed." "In this raw air," she answered, 
"In the likely rain to go up: you told me your trouble turned 

fiery after a rain." "I am ashamed," 
He said dully, "to leave you in sorrow. I can do nothing here, 

not even walk to Mark's room. 
A man like me, crippled out of use, hurt out of patience and so 

May's well go picnics. . . . D'y' see that star?" "What?" "The 

star." "There's no star, Reave." He drew his hand 
Over his eyes and said, "No star? None? Oh, yes there is. 
Thousands, but in the house we can't see them. Well, Helen. 
Move me, ah? March." 



That frame of redwood sticks 

And canvas was laid on the bed against him, Reave shifted 
The living part of his body onto it, the others 
The lower part. Helen saw his jaws locked 
Not to express pain, she heard the breath 
Hiss through his nostrils, and thought that she must detach 
Her nerves from feeling with his, or all her remnant 
Of strength to help him would bleed away to no purpose: but a 


Fear forbade any restraint of sympathy, 
It looked too much like betrayal; and Reave might suffer 
Some mystic loss. She took one of the whittled 
Litter-handles, the old woman another, and Luna 
The two at Reave's feet; so they conveyed him forth 
And edged him onto the truck-floor. He felt his mother's 
Eyes probe him, then to cover pain and the shame 
Of helplessness: "You ought to rig up a mast 
And tackle," he muttered with flat dry lips, 
"To hoist your deck-load aboard." "Reave, for God's sake," 
Helen cried. "What?" he said. "Ships are bad luck I think." 
"Fool." "Yes"; and she said panting, "Oh, you're quite right, 
Call it a ship. I'll sit on the deck beside you. 
Our lives are taken away from luck and given 
Higher." The old woman looked at her lifted face 
And began fiercely to speak, and looked at Reave's, and clutched 
The broken board-ends of the floor of the truck 
By his feet, where the steel binding was sprung. "I will stay with 


She said harshly. "It's been promoted," Helen said, 
"From being the barge for calves to the butcher. 
Now . . ." The mother: "I think, Reave, this woman 
Is faithful now." "A ship," Helen said, "exploring 
The open ocean of pain to try if there's any 
Shore." "You have not the courage," she answered. 
"But as you deal with Reave I will deal with you, 
And twice as much. I have nothing to hold me." She turned to 

the house 
And the car moved; before she came to the door-step 



She fell down in the path; but no one saw her, 

For Helen looked at Reave, Reave at the sky, 

And Luna drove. The old woman dragged her hands 

Through the wet earth and stood up, lifting her yellow 

Asturine face: as when a goshawk is caught in a steel trap at a 

pole's end, 
That was feathered with a bird for bait, and the farmer comes 

with death in his hands and takes down the pole, she turns 
In the steel teeth and outstares her captor with harder eyes. 

Pitching and slipping on stones 
And greasy earth, the truck toiled up the farmlane; Helen 

watched the lines in Reave's face, and risings 
Of muscle in his cheek when he locked his jaws when a jolt 

racked him. Once, when the fore-wheels and then the rear 
Struck in succession and Reave's lips tightened, she laid her 

hand on his fist: "That was the cable," she said, 
And wished that she had kept silence; and said, "It lies in the 

canyon mud like a killed snake: your enemy 
Was under your wheels." But whether he heard her or not he 

made no sign. 

At the turn to the county road 
Mill creek is bridged; the stream ran full, on the bridge was a 

whirlwind funnel of sucks and splinters, then Helen 
Looked up the redwoods and saw the racing sky, and a ray of sun 

plunge like a sword, cut northward, 
And be withdrawn. They climbed the cliff-cut zig-zag stair of 

the road; when they neared the crest 

The blanket streamed up, stripped from Reave's feet, and Helen 
With a sudden sea-gull cry caught it down again 
And said "Oh, Reave!" as if waked from a dream 
That drove toward some unbearable end. "We can't 
Go out to the rock, but if you can bear it 
We'll go on farther than that, we'll go on to town. 
The doctor will have to do ... at least something 
To still your pain." "All the opium in India. 
Brought low enough without that"; he muttered more, 



But the streaming wind took it away, then Helen: 

"Oh Reave be merciful: spare me once. 

We couldn't tell that the storm was stripping the high places 

When we planned this, down below, I can't bear it." The wind 

tilted the truck on the steep springs 
When it gained the crest and turned quartering; Reave struck 

the floor with his hand, holding his body with the other to 

stay it 
From rolling, and groaned, "I guess you can bear it." "You don't 

know," she said, 
"What stands on the rock . . ." she stoppered her mouth with 

her knuckles against the teeth, and breathed through them, 

and said, 
"You have no mercy: your choice is wise. Here is the gate." 


At the cliff-line, in the lee of one of those heavily 
Timbered platforms on the very brow, from which the lime- 
kegs used to be slung to the ship's hold, 
They rested at length; but only the cripple's insane invincible 

stubbornness had brought them to it, by the gullied 
Overgrown road. A broken shed on the staging, long ago un- 
roofed by some former storm, 
Still offered a brittle screen of standing planks, splintered, singing 

in the wind; Thurso's companions 
Laid him in that shelter on the sea-brow platform. He gathered 

and governed pain in a long silence, and said, 
"Did you see that riffraff under the floor, in the joists and 


"What?" Helen said dimly. "Sticks and grass: wood-rats' nests. 
Kindling. When this spell of rain ends 
We've only to drop a match and all the platform 
Flies into ashes: while Luna pries the old engine-boiler 
Down the cliff into the sea: we'll have our rock-head 
Clean as at first." She answered, "Oh: that?" and shivered 
In the whirl of the broken wind, saying, "Reave: listen. 
Do you think he minds?" "Hm?" "Your father. Because if he 
Lives after his death, envying and doing evil, 



Then death, that I have always been sick with fear 
To think of, is not an end, and you and I 
Might look down at our lives laughing 
From a great height." "Dead as a dog," he said. 
"I never thought anything else. Grieving for Mark 
I may Ve talked foolishly. We'll erase his leavings 
For pleasure and to clean the world." "You don't know. 
7 don't know. They won't tell," she said grievously. 
"Another man, Reave, is dead also. They fall and fall 
Like apples in a wind. Johnny Luna told me." She stood up 
And called Luna from prying at the truck's mudguard, 
Where it was bent to the tire by a stump of oak, 
"Was it the Vasquez boys that told you?" she screamed 
Down the loud wind. Luna climbed up the platform 
And stood with his blank slate face bent from the storm, 
Saying "What you want?" "I was so troubled this morning, 
I hardly listened to you: didn't you tell me 
Armstrong was killed?" He nodded gravely, and Helen: 
"I'm glad. Are you glad, Reave?" "No. Rick Armstrong?" 
He said groaning, turning himself on his shoulders, 
"How did Rick Armstrong die?" "All in a minute," 
She answered, "how was it? In his car, Johnny?" 
"He drive too fast at the bridge." "When was that?" Reeve said. 
"I don' know. Maybe las' week. Vidal Vasquez 
He talking about." Reave said, "It's too bad. 
He was a good fellow: but the single fault 
I've never understood yet. Well. Time and chance." Helen, sud- 
denly shaking like the erect boards 
Behind her in the wind: "Is it nothing, nothing to you? It was 

something to me! Hush. I'll be still. I hoped 
You'd feel an old debt paid, and be pleased, and I'd 
Be dearer to you. He's dead, you understand? He's gone down. 
You live." Reave gazed up in slight wonder; Helen sighed 
And turned to Luna: "That's all. Thank you for lying. It was 

no good." The Indian went carefully down, 
And back to the car, clinging by the platform timbers in the 
current of wind. 



Helen crouched again 
On the planks beside Reave's mattress, she kept jerking her hands 

together and drawing them apart; the screen 
Of boards behind her whistled and clapped like something heard 

on a ship; the ragged skies and wreaths 
Of mist rushed by, and crescent-moon-shaped flurries of foam 

on the streaked sea; the rock and the platform 
Were driving up wind with dreadful increasing speed, the deck 

and the hull. She moistened her lips to whisper 
Silently: "Mark's out of it. Oh happy, Oh happy! but the racing 

Will burst with this. Is the time now?" 

Reave never slept, he 
lay and looked up with broad light eyes 

At the driven sky; the upper eyelids cut the blue circles, the 
lower missed them; his face was motionless 

Like worn hard wood, but all the while he felt pain. It was hate- 
ful of him to leave the duty to a woman; 

Lie there fallen; wait to be saved; what had they come up for! 
And when she killed her lover to please him 

He had not cared. 

She turned herself toward the clattering 
boards and undid the package, 
And turned again, holding the things in her hands, 
Hidden in her lap. The engine in her side was quieter, 
But the ship glided dreadfully faster, giddy with speed. 
She swayed upright and went around him to approach him 
From the north side, so that her right hand 
Was under his chin when she knelt down and kissed, 
And babbling something of love drew his own sharp hunting- 

Between the jaw and the jut of cartilage, with such 
Hoarded unconscious violence that both the arteries, 
And the tubes between them, and much of the muscle sheath 
On the right of the throat were severed; his head jerked to the 



The great wound gaped and sighed, all in a moment 
Mattress and blanket, the planks, the whole world of sense, 
Were painted with blood and foam. He heard her crying 
She'd done it for love, he formed his lips to say "Bitch," 
But breath and the light failed; he felt the animal 
Flurry of death waggle his arms and head, 
No pain from the loins down. Then all was perfect 

Helen stood up from her deed 
And said "I have the other thing in my fingers. 
Oh Johnny Luna, go down and tell his mother 
That the ship has found land." But when she looked, 
Luna was still tinkering the truck. She ran 
To the platform-end, and the wind threw her on the planks, 
She lay on her breasts and thighs, crying "Tell the old woman 
To come up here and see him like a king in Babylon 
With his slave lying at his feet." 

Her face and the blood 
Moved him to flee into the wind and down 
The rock-path in the cliff-side. 


Reave's mother labored up the 
steep face, Luna behind her. 

The wind had sagged toward the southwest and somewhat de- 
clined in violence, so that a wide-winged hawk 

That had been hungry all day was able to hang in the birdless 
air of the rock-head when they came up, 

Probing with her eyes wild buckwheat bushes and sage and the 
polished leaves of the barren strawberry; she looked 

Nailed to the firmament, her twitching wings like the spread 
hands of a crucified man fighting the nails; 

But Helen imagined her a vulture and was screaming at her. 



When Reave's mother came, 
Helen made shift to sit up on the planks beside her slain man, 

and staring with enormous violet eyes 
From a stained shrunk face, began to make words in a voice that 

was not her own: "I was afraid you'd not come. 
I have to tell you. But now I've taken Reave's lifetime of pain 

upon me to spend in an hour or two, 
And my throat's burnt, but I have to tell you 
As clearly as I might be able, because you ought to understand 

that I am not vile to the very end, 
And have done well. His death was rapid. But for mine, after 

I'd done it, if I'd taken any easy way 
Out, you'd have scorned me; and the watchful world might 'a* 

thought I'd done it unworthily, what I did out of pure love 
And pity; or thought that I die to escape punishment. Don't come 

near me yet, for I've not finished. I read 
In the Sunday paper, how they dug out the grave of a king in 

Babylon and found his women about him 
With their skulls knocked in; I planned to honor 
Reave in that way: he was like a king in some ways, and if he 

had found any great thing to do 
He might have done greatly." 

She fell, drawing up her knees, 

and the mother said: "What poison?" Helen made no answer, 
But being asked a third time: "No," she answered faintly, "a 

woman's poison, a white one. The little tablets 
I used for fear of having a baby, in our happy time." She fixed 

her eyes on the vacant air 
Above the sea-edge: "Why there's that tiny tiny thing with the 

yellow mop 

Come up to see us. Keep her off, please. 
No, Hester. No. You may watch if you like but I alone 
Am allowed to lie at his feet, my love is proved." 



The old woman answered, "There's nobody." She crept on the 

platform for the wind threw her down, and crept past Helen 
To Reave and said, "How did you do it? Did he let you do it?" 

Helen, coughing with laughter in the poison fever: 
"Reave let me? Have you gone crazy? I knifed him while I 

kissed his mouth." She cried with pain 
At the end of speaking, and the mother: "I knew he would never 

give in, why did I ask? You have done well, 
You always were treacherous, you did it easily." She found the 


And took it up from the blood against Reave's shoulder, 
Then Helen cried, raising herself on her hands, 
"You must not! You have no right. I alone saved him, 
Alone to die with him." "When you die I will lay it down. 
You are not to get well." Helen gasped, laughing 
And retching, "Oh thafs all? Old fool. 

Those little white things, meant to fight the seed of our lovers, 
Are seed themselves, I'm pregnant and swell fast, 
Baby death, darling, darling." 

She widened terrified 
Eyes and said staring: "I can't 
Be silent in pain like Reave: Oh, I did hope to. 
I never dreamed, Oh, ooh; Oh, ooh." The old woman watched 


Attentively across Reave's body, and let the knife 
Drop on the planks. Helen heard it, and after a long while 
She said, stretching her throat, "Be merciful to me. 
As I was merciful to Reave. I can't bear 
The next hour. . . . Unless it would seem wrong? 
Reave not be honored enough?" "I think your time 
Is near," she answered. 

"There is an end or I'd help you: it will be braver in us 
Not to keep begging death out of the cloud 
Before he is ready." But she crept under the wind 
Around Reave's body and kissed Helen's hand, and remained 

with her 
Tenderly until she died. 



The platform is like a rough plank 

Built on the brow of the promontory: as if our blood had labored 

all around the earth from Asia 
To play its mystery before strict judges at last, the final ocean 

and sky, to prove our nature 
More shining than that of the other animals. It is rather ignoble 

in its quiet times, mean in its pleasures, 
Slavish in the mass; but at stricken moments it can shine terribly 

against the dark magnificence of things. 

Luna came up the platform and stood shaking, 
Leaned over against the wind; the old woman said: 
"We can do nothing. She had a wasteful gallant spirit. 
It is not poured out yet; go down for now." 

Toward evening the 

seas thundered on the rock, and rain fell heavily 
Like a curtain, with one red coal of sundown glowing in its dark. 

The old woman stood up 

And fell, and stood up and called: "Now come, it is time. . . . 
To bear . . . endure ... are poor things, Johnny; to live 
And bear what we can't strike back at: but we come to them 
Unless we fall off before. . . . Has the car lights? 
Help me: you'll have to carry all the weight. I am the last 
And worst of four: and at last the unhappiest: but that's nothing." 



The coast hills at Sovranes Creek: 

No trees, but dark scant pasture drawn thin 

Over rock shaped like flame; 

The old ocean at the land's foot, the vast 

Gray extension beyond the long white violence; 

A herd of cows and the bull 

Far distant, hardly apparent up the dark slope; 

And the gray air haunted with hawks: 

This place is the noblest thing I have ever seen. 

No imaginable 

Human presence here could do anything 
But dilute the lonely self-watchful passion. 


The deer were bounding like blown leaves 
Under the smoke in front of the roaring wave of the brush-fire; 
I thought of the smaller lives that were caught. 
Beauty is not always lovely; the fire was beautiful, the terror 
Of the deer was beautiful; and when I returned 
Down the black slopes after the fire had gone by, an eagle 
Was perched on the jag of a burnt pine, 

Insolent and gorged, cloaked in the folded storms of his shoulders. 
He had come from far off for the good hunting 
With fire for his beater to drive the game; the sky was merciless 
Blue, and the hills merciless black, 

The sombre-feathered great bird sleepily merciless between them. 
I thought, painfully, but the whole mind, 

The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than 



Some lucky day each November great waves awake and are 


Like smoking mountains bright from the west 
And come and cover the cliff with white violent cleanness: then 


The old granite forgets half a year's filth: 

The orange-peel, eggshells, papers, pieces of clothing, the clots 
Of dung in corners of the rock, and used 
Sheaths that make light love safe in the evenings: all the droppings 

of the summer 

Idlers washed off in a winter ecstasy: 
I think this cumbered continent envies its cliff then. . . . But all 


The earth, in her childlike prophetic sleep, 
Keeps dreaming of the bath of a storm that prepares up the long 


Of the future to scour more than her sea-lines: 
The cities gone down, the people fewer and the hawks more 


The rivers mouth to source pure; when the two-footed 
Mammal, being someways one of the nobler animals, regains 
The dignity of room, the value of rareness. 



The flesh of the house is heavy sea-orphaned stone, the imagina- 
tion of the house 

Is in those little clay kits of swallows 

Hung in the eaves, bright wings flash and return, the heavy rock 
walls commercing 

With harbors of the far hills and the high 

Rills of water, the river-meadow and the sea-cloud. You have 
also, O sleepy stones, 

The red, the white and the marbled pigeons 

To beat the blue air over the pinewood and back again in a mo- 
ment; and the bush-hidden 

Killdeer nest against the west wall-foot, 

That is fed from many strange ebbs; besides the woodful of 
finches, the shoring gulls, 

The sudden attentive passages of hawks. 



I chose the bed downstairs by the sea-window for a good death- 

When we built the house; it is ready waiting, 

Unused unless by some guest in a twelvemonth, who hardly 

Its latter purpose. I often regard it, 

With neither dislike nor desire; rather with both, so equalled 

That they kill each other and a crystalline interest 

Remains alone. We are safe to finish what we have to finish; 

And then it will sound rather like music 

When the patient daemon behind the screen of sea-rock and sky 

Thumps with his staff, and calls thrice: "Come, Jeffers." 



I watch the Indians dancing to help the young corn at Taos 

pueblo. The old men squat in a ring 
And make the song, the young women with fat bare arms, and a 

few shame-faced young men, shuffle the dance. 

The lean-muscled young men are naked to the narrow loins, 
their breasts and backs daubed with white clay, 

Two eagle-feathers plume the black heads. They dance with 
reluctance, they are growing civilized; the old men persuade 

Only the drum is confident, it thinks the world has not changed; 

the beating heart, the simplest of rhythms, 
It thinks the world has not changed at all; it is only a dreamer, 

a brainless heart, the drum has no eyes. 

These tourists have eyes, the hundred watching the dance, white 
Americans, hungrily too, with reverence, not laughter; 

Pilgrims from civilization, anxiously seeking beauty, religion, 
poetry; pilgrims from the vacuum. 

People from cities, anxious to be human again. Poor show how 
they suck you empty! The Indians are emptied, 

And certainly there was never religion enough, nor beauty nor 
poetry here ... to fill Americans. 

Only the drum is confident, it thinks the world has not changed. 

Apparently only myself and the strong 
Tribal drum, and the rockhead of Taos mountain, remember 

that civilization is a transient sickness. 



A Celtic spearman forcing the cromlech-builder's brown 


A blond Saxon, a slayer of Britons, 
Building his farm outside the village he'd burned; a Norse 
Voyager, wielder of oars and a sword, 
Thridding the rocks at the fjord sea-end, hungry as a hawk; 
A hungry Gaelic chiefling in Ulster, 
Whose blood with the Norseman's rotted in the rain on a heather 


These by the world's time were very recent 
Forefathers of yours. And you are a maker of verses. The pallid 
Pursuit of the world's beauty on paper, 
Unless a tall angel comes to require it, is a pitiful pastime. 
If, burnished new from God's eyes, an angel: 
And the ardors of the simple blood showing clearly a little 

In this changed world: write and be quiet. 



On the small marble-paved platform 

On the turret on the head of the tower, 

Watching the night deepen. 

I feel the rock-edge of the continent 

Reel eastward with me below the broad stars. 

I lean on the broad worn stones of the parapet top 

And the stones and my hands that touch them reel eastward. 

The inland mountains go down and new lights 

Glow over the sinking east rim of the earth. 

The dark ocean comes up, 

And reddens the western stars with its fog-breath 

And hides them with its mounded darkness. 

The earth was the world and man was its measure, but our minds 

have looked 
Through the little mock-dome of heaven the telescope-slotted 

observatory eyeball, there space and multitude came in 
And the earth is a particle of dust by a sand-grain sun, lost in a 

nameless cove of the shores of a continent. 
Galaxy on galaxy, innumerable swirls of innumerable stars, en- 
dured as it were forever and humanity 
Came into being, its two or three million years are a moment, in 

a moment it will certainly cease out from being 
And galaxy on galaxy endure after that as it were forever . . . 

But man is conscious, 

He brings the world to focus in a feeling brain, 
In a net of nerves catches the splendor of things, 
Breaks the somnambulism of nature . . . His distinction perhaps, 
Hardly his advantage. To slaver for contemptible pleasures 
And scream with pain, are hardly an advantage. 
Consciousness? The learned astronomer 
Analyzing the light of most remote star-swirls 
Has found themor a trick of distance deludes his prism- 
All at incredible speeds fleeing outward from ours. 



1 thought, no doubt they are fleeing the contagion 
Of consciousness that infects this corner of space. 

For often I have heard the hard rocks I handled 
Groan, because lichen and time and water dissolve them, 
And they have to travel down the strange falling scale 
Of soil and plants and the flesh of beasts to become 
The bodies of men; they murmur at their fate 
In the hollows of windless nights, they'd rather be anything 
Than human flesh played on by pain and joy, 
They pray for annihilation sooner, but annihilation's 
Not in the book yet. 

So, I thought, the rumor 

Of human consciousness has gone abroad in the world, 
The sane uninfected far-outer universes 
Flee it in a panic of escape, as men flee the plague 
Taking a city: for look at the fruits of consciousness: 
As in young Walter Margrave when he'd been sentenced for 

murder: he was thinking when they brought him back 
To the cell in jail, "I've only a moment to arrange my thoughts, 

I must think quickly, I must think clearly, 
And settle the world in my mind before I kick off," but to feel 

the curious eyes of his fellow-prisoners 
And the wry-mouthed guard's and so forth torment him through 

the steel bars put his mind in a stupor, he could only 
Sit frowning, ostentatiously unafraid. "But I can control my 

mind, their eyes can't touch my will. 
One against all. What use is will at this end of everything? A 

kind of nausea is the chief feeling . . . 
In my stomach and throat . . . but in my head pride: I fought 

a good fight and they can't break me; alone, unbroken, 
Against a hundred and twenty-three million people. They are 

going to kill the best brain perhaps in the world, 
That might have made such discoveries in science 
As would set the world centuries ahead, for I had the mind and 

the power. Boo, it's their loss. Blind fools, 



Killing their best." When his mind forgot the eyes it made rapid 

capricious pictures instead of words, 

But not of the medical school and the laboratories, its late in- 
tense interest; not at all of his crime; glimpses 
Of the coast-range at home; the V of a westward canyon with 

the vibrating 
Blue line of the ocean strung sharp across it; that domed hill up 

the valley, two cows like specks on the summit 
And a beautiful-colored jungle of poison-oak at the foot; his 

sister half naked washing her hair, 
"My dirty sister," whose example and her lovers had kept him 

chaste by revulsion; the reed-grown mouth of the river 
And the sand-bar against the stinging splendor of the sea ... 

and anguish behind all the pictures 
(He began to consider his own mind again) "like a wall they 

hang on." Hang. The anguish came forward, an actual 
Knife between two heartbeats, the organ stopped and then raced. 

He experimented awhile with his heart, 
Making in his mind a picture of a man hanged, pretending to 

himself it was to happen next moment, 
Trying to observe whether the beat suspended "suspended," he 

thought in systole or in diastole. 
The effect soon failed; the anguish remained. "Ah my slack 

lawyer, damn him, let slip chance after chance. 
Scared traitor." Then broken pictures of the scenes in court, the 

jury, the judge, the idlers, and not one face 
But bleak with hatred. "But I met their eyes, one against all." 

Suddenly his mind became incapable 
Of making pictures or words, but still wildly active, striking in 

all directions like a snake in a fire, 
Finding nothing but the fiery element of its own anguish. He got 

up and felt the guard's eyes and sat down, 
Turned side-face, resting his chin on his fist, frowning and 

trembling. He saw clearly in his mind the little 
Adrenal glands perched on the red-brown kidneys, as if all his 

doomed tissues became transparent, 
Pouring in these passions their violent secretion 



Into his blood-stream, raising the tension unbearably. And the 

thyroids; tension, tension. A long course of that 
Should work grave changes. "If they tortured a man like a labora- 
tory dog for discovery: there' d be value gained: but by 
Of law for vengeance, because his glands and his brain have 

made him act in another than common manner: 
You incredible breed of asses!" He smiled self-consciously in 

open scorn of the people, the guard at the door 
To observe that smile "my God, do I care about the turnkey's 

opinion? "suddenly his mind again 

Was lashing like a burnt snake. Then it was torpid for a while. 
This continued for months. 

His father had come to visit him, he saw the ruinous white-haired 

Through two steel wickets under the bluish electric light that 

seemed to peel the skin from the face. 
Walter said cheerfully too loudly, "Hullo. You look like a skull." 

The shaven sunk jaws in answer chewed 
Inaudible words. Walter with an edge of pleasure thought "Once 

he was stronger than I! I used to admire 
This poor old man's strength when I was a child," and said "Buck 

up, old fellow, it will soon be over. Here's nothing 
To cry for. Do you think I'm afraid to die? It's good people that 

fear death, people with the soft streak 
Of goodness in them fear death: but I, you know, am a monster, 

don't you read the papers? Caught at last: 
I fought a hundred and twenty-three million people. How's 

Hazel? How's the farm? I could get out of this scrape 
By playing dementia, but I refuse to, there's not an alienist living 
Could catch me out. I'm the king of Spain dying for the world. 

I've been persecuted since I was born 
By a secret sect, they stuck pins into me 
And fed me regular doses of poison for a certain reason. Why 

do you pretend that you're my father? 
God is. ... Believe me, I could get by with it. 
But I refuse." 



Old Margrave looked timidly at the two guards 

listening, and drew his brown tremulous hand 
Across his eyes below the white hair. "I thought of going to try 

to see the governor, Walter." 
"That's it!" "Don't hope for anything, Walter, they tell me that 

there's no hope. They say that I shan't even 
Be allowed to see him." "By God," the young man said trembling, 

"you can if you want to. Never believe that lawyer. 
If Fd had Dorking: but you couldn't afford him. Poor men have 

no right to breed sons. I'd not be here 

If you'd had money to put me through college. Tell the governor 
I know he won't pardon, but he can commute the sentence to 

life imprisonment. Then I can read and study, 
I can help the penitentiary doctor, I can do something to help 

humanity. Tell him it's madness 
To throw such a brain as mine into the garbage. Don't deny my 

guilt but tell him my reasons. 
I kidnapped the little girl to get money to finish my medical 

education. What's one child's life 
Against a career like mine that might have saved 
Thousands of children? Say I'd isolated the organism of infantile 

paralysis: I'd have done more: 
But that alone would save thousands of children. I was merciful; 

she died quietly; tell him that. 
It was only pithing a little white frog. 

Don't you think you can make him understand? I'm not a crimi- 
nal: I judge differently from others. I wasn't 
Afraid to think for myself. All I did 
Was for money for my education, to help humanity. And tell 

him if I've done wrong what's wrong? I've paid for it 
With frightful suffering: the more developed the brain the greater 

the agony. He won't admit that. Oh God, 
These brains the size of a pea! To be juried 
And strangled by a hundred and twenty-three million peas. Go 

down on your knees to him. You owe me that: you'd no 

To breed, you're poor. 



But you itched for a woman, you had to fetch me out of the 
happy hill of not-being. Pfah, to hug a woman 

And make this I. That's the evil in the world, that letter. I I 
Tell the governor 

That I'm not afraid of dying, that I laugh at death. No, no, we'll 
laugh in private. Tell him I'm crazy. 

I've come to that: after being the only sane mind among a hun- 
dred and twenty-three million peas. 

Anything, anything . . ." 

He had let his nerves go wild on pur- 
pose, to edge on the old man to action, now at last 

Escaping utterly out of control they stumbled into a bog of thick 
sobs. The guards pulled him up 

And walked him away as if he were half insensible. He was not 
insensible, but more acutely aware 

Than ever in his life before of all that touched him, and of shame 
and anguish. 

You would be wise, you far stars, 
To flee with the speed of light this infection. 
For here the good sane invulnerable material 
And nature of things more and more grows alive and cries. 
The rock and water grow human, the bitter weed 
Of consciousness catches the sun, it clings to the near stars, 
Even the nearer portion of the universal God 
Seems to become conscious, yearns and rejoices 
And suffers: I believe this hurt will be healed 
Some age of time after mankind has died, 
Then the sun will say "What ailed me a moment?" and resume 
The old soulless triumph, and the iron and stone earth 
With confident inorganic glory obliterate 
Her ruins and fossils, like that incredible unfading red rose 
Of desert in Arizona glowing life to scorn, 
And grind the chalky emptied seed-shells of consciousness 
The bare skulls of the dead to powder; after some million 
Courses around the sun her sadness may pass: 



But why should you worlds of the virgin distance 
Endure to survive what it were better to escape? 

I also am not innocent 

Of contagion, but have spread my spirit on the deep world. 

I have gotten sons and sent the fire wider. 

I have planted trees, they also feel while they live. 

I have humanized the ancient sea-sculptured cliff 

And the ocean's wreckage of rock 

Into a house and a tower, 

Hastening the sure decay of granite with my hammer, 

Its hard dust will make soft flesh; 

And have widened in my idleness 

The disastrous personality of life with poems, 

That are pleasant enough in the breeding but go bitterly at last 

To envy oblivion and the early deaths of nobler 

Verse, and much nobler flesh; 

And I have projected my spirit 

Behind the superb sufficient forehead of nature 

To gift the inhuman God with this rankling consciousness. 

But who is our judge? It is likely the enormous 
Beauty of the world requires for completion our ghostly incre- 
It has to dream, and dream badly, a moment of its night. 

On the little stone-belted platform 

On the turret on the head of the tower, 

Between the stars and the earth, 

And the ocean and the continent. 

One ship's light shines and eclipses 

Very far out, behind the high waves on the hill of water. 

In the east under the Hyades and rising Orion 

Are many cities and multitudes of people, 

But westward a long way they are few enough. 

It is fortunate to look westward as to look upward. 

In the south the dark river-mouth pool mirrors a star 



That stands over Margrave's farmhouse. The old man has lost it, 

he isn't there any more. He went down to the river-mouth 
Last December, when recent rains had opened the stream and the 

salmon were running. Fishermen very solemnly 
Stood all along the low sand like herons, and sea-lions offshore 

in the rolling waves with deep wet voices 
Coughed at each other; the sea air is hoarse with their voices that 

time of year. Margrave had rambled since noon 
Among the little folds of the seaward field that he had forgotten 

to plow and was trying to sell 
Though he used to love it, but everything was lost now. He lay 

awhile on his face in the rotting stubble and random 
Unsown green blades, then he got up and drifted over the ridge 

to the river-mouth sands, unaimed, 
Pale and gap-eyed, as the day moon a clear morning, opposite the 

sun. He noticed with surprise the many 
Fishermen like herons in the shallows and along the sands; and 

then that his girl Hazel was with him: who'd feared 
What he might do to himself and had come to watch him when 

he lay face down in the field. "I know what they're doing," 
He said slyly, "Hazel, they're fishing! I guess they don't know," 
He whispered, "about our trouble. Oh no, don't tell them." She 

said, "Don't go down, father, your face would tell them. 
Sit here on the edge of grass, watch the brown river meet the 

blue sea. Do look: that boy's caught something. 
How the line cuts the water and the small wheel sings." "If I'd 

been rich," 
Old Margrave answered, "they'd have fixed the hook for . . . 

Walter . . . with some other bait. It sticks in my mind that 

. . . Walter 
Blames me too much." "Look," Hazel said, "he's landing it now. 

Oh, it's a big one." "I dreamed about fishing, 
Some time ago," he answered, "but we were the fish. I saw the 

people all running reaching for prizes 
That dangled on long lines from the sky. A lovely girl or a sack 

of money or a case of whiskey, 
Or fake things like reputation, hackle-feathers and a hook. A man 

would reach up and grab and the line 



Jerked, then you knew by his face that the hook was in him, 
wherever he went. Often they're played for half 

A lifetime before they're landed: others, like . . . my son . . . 
pulled up short. Oh, Oh, 

It's not a dream." He said gently, "He wanted money for his 
education, but you poor girl 

Wanted boy friends, now you've got a round belly. That's the 
hook. I wanted children and got 

Walter and you. Hm? Hooked twice is too much. Let's walk." 

"Not that way: let's go up home, daddy. 

It makes you unhappy to see them fishing." "No," he answered, 
"nothing can. I have it in my pocket." She walked behind 

Hiding herself, ashamed of her visible pregnancy and her broth- 
er's fate; but when the old man stumbled 

And wavered on the slope she went beside him to support him, 
her right hand under his elbow, and wreathed his body 

With the other arm. 

The clear brown river ran eagerly through 

the sand-hill, undercutting its banks, 
That slid in masses; tall waves walked very slowly up stream from 

the sea, and stood 
Stationary in the throat of the channel before they dissolved. The 

rock the children call Red-cap stood 
High and naked among the fishermen, the orange lichen on its 

head. At the sea-end of the sand 
Two boys and a man had rifles instead of rods, they meant to 

punish the salmon-devouring sea-lions 
Because the fish were fewer than last year; whenever a sleek 

brown head with the big questioning eyes 
Broke sea they fired. Margrave had heard the shots but taken no 

notice, but when he walked by the stream 

He saw a swimmer look up from the water and its round dark eye 
Suddenly burst red blood before it went down. He cried out and 

twisted himself from Hazel's hand 
And ran like a squirrel along the stream-bank. "I'll not allow it!" 

He snatched at a rifle. "Why should my lad 



Be hanged for killing and all you others go free?" He wrestled 
feebly to gain the rifle, the sand-bank 

Slid under his feet, he slipped and lay face down in the running 
stream and was hauled astrand. Then Hazel 

Came running heavily, and when he was able to walk she led him 
away. The sea-beast, blinded but a painful 

Vain gleam, starved long before it could die; old Margrave still 
lives. Death's like a little gay child that runs 

The world around with the keys of salvation in his foolish fin- 
gers, lends them at random where they're not wanted, 

But often withholds them where most required. 

Margrave's son 

at this time 
Had only four days to wait, but death now appeared so dreadful 

to him that to speak of his thoughts and the abject 
Horror, would be to insult humanity more than it deserves. At 

last the jerked hemp snapped the neck sideways 
And bruised the cable of nerves that threads the bone rings; the 

intolerably strained consciousness in a moment changed. 
It was strangely cut in two parts at the noose, the head's 
Consciousness from the body's; both were set free and flamed; 

the head's with flashing paradisal light 
Like the wild birth of a star, but crying in bewilderment and 

suddenly extinguished; the body's with a sharp emotion 
Of satisfied love, a wave of hard warmth and joy, that ebbed cold 

on darkness. After a time of darkness 
The dreams that follow upon death came and subsided, like 

fibrillar twitchings 
Of the nerves unorganizing themselves; and some of the small 

dreams were delightful and some, slight miseries, 
But nothing intense; then consciousness wandered home from the 

cell to the molecule, was utterly dissolved and changed; 
Peace was the end of the play, so far as concerns humanity. Oh 

beautiful capricious little savior, 
Death, the gay child with the gipsy eyes, to avoid you for a time 

I think is virtuous, to fear you is insane. 



On the little stone-girdled platform 

Over the earth and the ocean 

I seem to have stood a long time and watched the stars pass. 

They also shall perish I believe. 

Here to-day, gone to-morrow, desperate wee galaxies 

Scattering themselves and shining their substance away 

Like a passionate thought. It is very well ordered. 



1 he apples hung until a wind at the equinox, 

That heaped the beach with black weed, filled the dry grass 

Under the old trees with rosy fruit. 

In the morning Fayne Fraser gathered the sound ones into a 


The bruised ones into a pan. One place they lay so thickly 
She knelt to reach them. 

Her husband's brother passing 
Along the broken fence of the stubble-field, 
His quick brown eyes took in one moving glance 
A little gopher-snake at his feet flowing through the stubble 
To gain the fence, and Fayne crouched after apples 
With her mop of red hair like a glowing coal 
Against the shadow in the garden. The small shapely reptile 
Flowed into a thicket of dead thistle-stalks 
Around a fence-post, but its tail was not hidden. 
The young man drew it all out, and as the coil 
Whipped over his wrist, smiled at it; he stepped carefully 
Across the sag of the wire. When Fayne looked up 
His hand was hidden; she looked over her shoulder 
And twitched her sunburnt lips from small white teeth 
To answer the spark of malice in his eyes, but turned 
To the apples, intent again. Michael looked down 
At her white neck, rarely touched by the sun, 
But now the cinnabar-colored hair fell off from it; 
And her shoulders in the light-blue shirt, and long legs like a boy's 
Bare-ankled in blue-jean trousers, the country wear; 
He stooped quietly and slipped the small cool snake 
Up the blue-denim leg. Fayne screamed and writhed, 
Clutching her thigh. "Michael, you beast." She stood up 
And stroked her leg, with little sharp cries, the slender invader 
Fell down her ankle. 

Fayne snatched for it and missed; 



Michael stood by rejoicing, his rather small 

Finely cut features in a dance of delight; 

Fayne with one sweep flung at his face 

All the bruised and half-spoiled apples in the pan, 

A fragrant volley, and while he staggered under it, 

The hat fallen from his head, she found one thoroughly 

Soft-rotten, brown in the long white grass, and threw 

For the crown of his dark head but perfectly missed, 

Crying "Quits. We're even." They stood and warily smiled at each 

In the heavy-sweet apple air. 

The garden was sunken lower than 

the little fields; it had many fragrances 
And its own shadow, while the cows lay in the stream-bed, large 

sycamore leaves dropped on their flanks; the yellow 
Heads of the hills quivered with sun and the straining sea-glare. 

Fayne said, "Where did it go, poor thing?" 
Looking for the little serpent. Michael said gravely, "That's to 

remember me by. I wish I could do worse. 
I'm going away." "What?" "From here again." 
"Oh, no." "I am, though." "No, Michael." 
"Freckles," he answered, "didn't it ever occur to you 
That it's fairly dull here? I'm going up to town again. 
I've got to earn money and spend it and hear the motors." 
She said dismally, "What about me? Who'll there be to talk to?" 
"Lance, of course." "I love him dearly; he's not fun exactly. 
He wouldn't stick a rattlesnake up my leg." 
"Gopher-snake," he shouted. They stood and laughed at each 


And Michael: "I was over the ridge to Drunken Charlie's, 
Fixing up a little party for Saturday. 
There'll be a moon in the evening. I leave Monday." 
Fayne said unhappily, "Help me pick up the apples 
I poured on you." 


Michael was taking Mary Abbey; 
The Dolmans came, and Will Howard with two girls, 



And Leo Ramirez with his sister Nell, so that the youth 

Of the coast was all there. They met at Erasers' 

And crossed the ridge; and were picketing the horses 

Where they could ride no farther, on the airy brink 

Above the great slides of the thousand-foot cliff. 

They were very gay, colorful mites on the edge of the world. 

The men divided the pack to carry; 
Lance Eraser, being strongest, took most. 

Far down below, the 

broad ocean burned like a vast cat's eye 

Pupilled by the track of sun; but eastward, beyond the white- 
grassed hump of the ridge, the day moon stood bleak 
And badly shaped, face of stained clay, above the limestone fang 

of one of the Ventana mountains 
Just its own color. Lance, looking back, saw his wife talking to 

Michael, her cinnabar-colored hair 
Like a flag of life against the pale east. That moment he saw the 

horses plunging against the sky 
And heard a noise like a sharp head of water from a narrow pipe; 

a girl cried out, 
Lance dropped his pack and returned. Will Howard was looking 

for stones 
But found none, but Lance found a burnt fence-post, relic of an 

ancient fire. The snake lay with raised head, 
The rattle of its tail making that noise of sharp water running; a 

big rattler, but very small 
At bay in the circle of the laughing men. Lance struck for its head, 

but the snake that moment struck at the rope's end 
That Michael was flicking at it, so that Lance's blow failed, the 

fence-post broke to bits in his hand, 
The snake not harmed; then Michael laughing with pleasure 

whipped the creature to death with the doubled rope 
And set his heel on the head; Lance damned all rotten wood, his 

blond face flushing 

Dark through the sunburn. Michael cut off the victim's 
Tail with the ten rattles to give to Mary; 
The other young men quieted the horses, and caught 
One that had dragged away the bush it was tied to. 



Lance would not wait, he picked up his pack and went 
Alone down the zigzag path; but after a moment 
His temper cleared. 

Far down, short of the cat's-eye ocean, they 

saw like a brown pebble 
Drunken Charlie's hut in a gorge of the cliff, a feather of smoke, 

and his boat like a split berry 
Of bladdery seaweed up the thin strand; and Lance stood waiting 

down the wild cliff side, his light-brown hair 
Golden with sun, his hat and the pack laid down. The warm wind 

up the mountain was wild with fragrance, 
Chiefly the scent of the chiya bushes, that wear rosettes of seed 
Strung on the stem. The girls squealed as they scrambled down, 

when the brittle trap-rock broke underfoot, 
Small fragments ran over on the next below. When they came to 

the foot of the cliff Michael said, "Now," and offered 
A bottle hot from his pocket. "It's time." Mary Abbey refused 

it but the others drank, from mouth to mouth, 
Stinging fire from the slobbered bottle-neck. 

The sun was low 

But had played all day on this southwestward 
Cliff over the burning-glass water and the air 
Still swirled with heat; the headland of Eraser's Point 
Stopped off the trade-wind here. Fayne Fraser a little dizzily 
Looked seaward, left of the blazing sun-track, and saw the track 

of the northwest gale and the running waves 
Like an endless army of horse with banners going by offshore; 

her eyes followed them, a ruled line southward 
Of violent water, converging toward the bronze headland beyond 

headland of the mountain coast; and someone was saying, 
"It's hot, we'll swim." "Before we eat," someone said. 
The girls twittered together and clustered northward 
To a little cove beyond a fair spit of rock; 
The men remained on this side. 

Fayne undressed beside Mary 

And was careful of words, because she'd sucked from the bottle 

more than she meant to, and had small experience of drinking. 



She said carefully, "Where did those girls of Will Howard's 

come from?" "Nina told me," she answered; "waitresses 
Down from the city on their vacation." "Honestly are they? I 

guessed it." "No," Mary said, "they're nice girls." 
"That yellow-haired one, she's bad." "No," Mary said. Fayne 

said, "Did you see her face when she looked at Michael 
Across that bottle?" "Oh, no," Mary answered. ". . . Well. Are 

you ready, Mary? Let's go." 

They limped down to the waves, giggling and wincing. 
Fayne had tied a broad handkerchief around her hair 
To shed the spray; she swam out farther than others, 
Mary remained along shore. 

The other side of the rock-spit 
The men had bathed, and had come up strand again 
To dry by the driftwood fire; all except Michael, 
Who loved to swim. Lance Fraser stood by the fire, his broad 

smooth chest, grooved between the square plates 
Of heavy muscle, steamed and was ruddy in the glowing heat. He 

narrowed his eyes to look seaward 
And saw Michael's left arm, over the speck of his head, lift, reach 

and dip, 
Swimming side-stroke; two white arms flashing swanlike on either 

side of a handkerchief-hooded head 
Emerged from the scales of light on the edge of the sun-dazzle. 

The swimmers approached each other, 
And met this side the long brown stain of the breathing kelp-bed. 

Lance frowned, 

But only thinking that they were too far out 
And making a show of themselves. 

On the pleasant water 

Michael had called to Fayne, "I've something for you. 
Come here a minute." She hardly dared, and thought 
In the flashing joy of the sea, "Oh, the water covers us. 
What have you got?" "Gin for girls. 
We've got a fire on this side." They met laughing, 
And reached the bottle from hand to hand and floated decorously 
Separate again. Fayne looked toward shore, and saw the vast 

cliff in the flare of sundown soaring above 



Like beaten gold, the imperfect moon-disk gold on its brow; the 

tiny distinct white shapes of men 
Around their spot of fire in the flat blue sea-shadow. She breathed 

hard and said, 

"My God, how beautiful. Oh, Michael, stay here at home." 
He answered with a watery yell of pleasure, submerging his 

To roar as the sea-lions do. 

Fayne trailed the bottle 

And swam ashore. There was nothing to dry herself with; 
The chill of the water had touched her blood, she sucked breath 


Through clicking teeth. She sipped from the salted bottle, 
And dressed, but shivered still. 

She sunned herself by the fire, 
Watching with fascinated speculation of pain 
The antennae of lobsters like spikes of jointed grass 
Above the heating water in a five-gallon tin 
Writhe at the sky, lives unable to scream. 

Under the vast calm vaulting glory of the afterglow, low smoky 

rose and delicately 
Stratified amber, soaring purple; then rose again, luminous and 

virginal, floating the moon, 
High up a scoured hollow of the cliff 
Cormorants were settling to roost on the jags and ledges. 
They writhed long Negro snake-throats and shot 
Sharp heads at each other, shaking out sooty wings 
And angry complaining cries. 

Below, on the thread of beach, 

The lonely fisherman who was called Drunken Charlie, 
Fire glowing on his drugged eyes, wide beard and lank hair, 
Turned meat on the grid over the barbecue-pit 
And talked to himself all the time. Michael Fraser knelt 
By a turned chest that served for table and poured 
From a jug into cups, fierce new distillate 
From Charlie's cliff -hidden kettle. 


Faync Eraser shook half-dried 


The color of the coals at the heart of the fire 
But darkening as light decreased, and went to Lance 
Who stood alone at the waves' edge, turning his back on the 

world, and the wet sand 
Raised by his weight on either side of his foot-soles ran water and 

glistened in the still light. Fayne said 
"Are you cross, dear?" She pushed up his rolled sleeve and clasped 

her fingers on the broad trunk of his arm 
Above the elbow, "Dear, are you sad?" "I? No," he said, "What 

about?" "You haven't spoken to anyone 
Since we were swimming." "Why should I? You were out too 

far, though." "Oh, I can swim. 
And Michael was there to help me if I'd got tired." "By God, no," 

Lance said, with a sharp vision in his mind 
Of her bright nakedness, the shining whiteness and the red hair. 

She understood and said softly, "Well, 
I didn't need help. But he's our brother." "Certainly; I didn't 

mind him," he answered. "But I did hate 
To think that rabble of girls could look at you; it isn't decent." 

She said, "They didn't seem interested. 
Come, drink and eat. Those waitress women are passing the paper 

plates." He saw that vision once more, 
The form and whiteness, the little gay-colored flower of the 

pubic hair, and groaned, as a thick bull 
Alone in the field groans to himself, not knowing why the hot 

brow and the hooves itch for destruction. 
Fayne to cure his unhappiness hasted and returned 
Fetching two cups of the fire Michael was pouring. 

After they had 

eaten, twilight and moonlight came; 
The fire burned smaller and brighter; they were twelve around 

it; and drinks were poured. The bearded fisherman seemed 
Stiffly asleep, with open eyes like a drowned man's 
Glazed by the yellow firelight. Tom Dolman and Leo Ramirez 
Roughed at each other, and Nina Dolman 
Sitting between them cried out; then Michael said, 



"Get up and wrestle." All but the fisherman turned 

To watch them circle clumsily on the damp sand 

And suddenly lock, into one quadruped body reeling 

Against the dark band of ocean and the low sky. 

Ramirez had the low hold but Dolman was the heavier man; 

They tugged and sobbed; Ramirez was lifted high 

And writhed on the other's shoulder by the evening star, 

But the strained column staggered and crumbled, the Spaniard 

Fell uppermost and was the first to rise up. 

Michael asked very gravely, "Who was the winner? 

The winner may challenge Lance." Ramirez gasping and laughing 

Said, "Drunk; not to that extent." "Then gather firewood. 

The fire's got low." 

The yellow-haired one of the two girls Will 

Howard had brought 
Sat in the sand beside Lance Fraser; she leaned on his shoulder 

and held a cup to his mouth and said 
"Please drink it for me: things are beginning to go 'round in 

circles." He drank; then Fayne on his other side 
Grew suddenly cool and quite clear; she leaned across him and 

said, "That hair in the cup! Well, you drank it. 
Her bleaches have made it brittle so it keeps falling." "Oh," the 

other gasped, "that's not true." "It's pretty," Fayne said, 
"Only the black half inch at the roots. Is your name Lois? What's 

your name?" "Lois." "Lean the other way, 
Lois." Then Lance said angrily, "Be quiet, will you," and got up 
To fetch more firewood. 

A timber from one of the four ships 
That have broken in half a century off Fraser's Point 
Lay near and dry; Ramirez and Howard had brought it, 
But the axe was lost in the sand. Lance up-ended it, 
An ivory-white pillar under the moon, 
Garnished with great iron bolts. He wedged his fingers 
Into a crack and suddenly straining tore it in two; 
The splitting made a great noise under the cliff, 
The sea being quiet. Lance felt himself curiously 
Numbed, as if the sharp effort had strained the whiskey 
Out of his blood through the sheathes of his nerves; 



His body obeyed as ever but felt a distance 

Blocked off and alien. He took the halves of the timber 

Under each arm and a bolt in his hand, 

For two or three had fallen out of the wood, 

This one straight, long and heavy. After he had laid 

His logs on the fire he saw the fisherman's 

Firelight-discolored eyes, and called "Hey! Charlie." 

Still the man slept. Lance, wavering a little, reached 

Over Will Howard's shoulder and took the cup from his hand, 

Drank half, poured the other half on Charlie's long hair; 

It dribbled into his beard; he coughed and awoke. 

Lance said "D'you ever have rattlesnakes down here? 

I snicked at one up the cliff with a rotten stick; 

But this'd fix 'em." He gave him the iron bar; 

Charlie posted it carefully up in the sand 

Between his feet and answered, "Mm; but there's Injuns." 

"What?" "All that was cleared out of the country. 

Where did you think they got to? They ain't got ships. 

Down here they are." The dark-haired girl that Will Howard 

had brought 
Suddenly stood up from the fire, she went toward the sea and 

was heard vomiting. Charlie nodded and said, 
"There's one o' them now. Most nights I see their fires away 

down the beach." Mary Abbey whispered to Michael, 
"Don't take any more. Time to go home." "Ah no," he said, 

"dear, we just got here." Fayne came to Lance 
And said, "Don't drink any more. Time to go home." He an- 
swered briskly, "Since when are you giving orders?" 
"Since you're not fit to." She knew while the words made in her 

throat, "Now he'll be angry," a pale rush of anger 
Ran to meet his; the memory of all his bad-tempered times, his 

heavy earnestness and lack of laughter, 
Pierced like a mountain-peak the cloud in her mind, "Oh, I do 

hate you." 

He stared, more astonished than angry, and saw her face 
Lean, sharp, bled white, each freckle black as a mole 
Against its moon-gleam pallor. "That's how you feel, ah?" 
He turned his back. She thought, "He'll never forgive me: 



Let him not," and saw the Dolmans, Nina and Tom, 

Seeking the way up the cliff, Mary Abbey with them, 

Fayne went and said, "Michael, I've lost my cup, 

Aren't there any more cups?" "I'll hold the jug: 

You hold your mouth." "Oo, I need water with it." 

"No, you don't." Half of the sip went strangling 

Into her throat, half ran by her little chin 

And trickled between her breasts. She looked at the fire, 

Then at the moon, both blurred fantastically, 

Red burrowed, white wavered high. Michael said, "My girl's 

Fayne said, "Oh, and yours?" He said "That's no sense. That's 

She laughed and answered, "They don't." 

The moon suspended 

in her great antelope-leap from the head of the cliff 
Hung pouring whiteness along the narrow runway of sand and 

slide-rock under the continent's foot, 
A watery glittering and secret place, walled from the world, 

closed by the cliff, ditched by the ocean. 
Drunken Charlie dreamed by the dying fire; 
Will Howard and Nell Ramirez were one slight point 
Far down the white beach. Yellow-haired Lois 
Spilled her drink and said, "Seeing is believing. 
Come on, I'll show you." She smiled at Lance, "Come, dear. 
Sadie's passed out; it's all right wi' Sadie," 
And to Leo Ramirez, "Come if you like, dark boy." 
He swayed and stammered, "Responsible; Sister Nell. 
Keep an eye on young sister." "Ah, go and find her." 
"Not till I see the picture on Sadie's stomach." 
They wandered toward Drunken Charlie's little hollow skiff 
And its black shadow, drawn up the moonlight strand. 
Lance thought, "Here's a boat, let's break it," and thought with 

an ache of shame, 
"I wouldn't think that, only being drunk." The center of his 

mind made savage war on rebellious out-liers 
In breathless darkness behind the sweating forehead; while Leo 

Ramirez, seeing the bright fish-scales glued 



With blood and slime to the boat-thwarts glitter like a night of 
stars, began to sing a stale song: "We'll always, 

Be young and gay. We'll always, feel that way." Lois said "Shut 
up," and led them around the boat, 

Her friend lay in the moonlight nestled against it. Lois knelt 
down and gently drew her by the shoulder; 

She groaned in her sleep, resisting. Lois laughed, "The boys want 
to see it, Sadie," and tugged, and turned her 

Onto her back, the stained pale face up to the moonlight; the 
teeth in the opened mouth glittered, 

And sour breath crossed them, while Lois turned up the blouse, 
loosened the band and jerked up the linen shift 

To show a three-masted sailing-ship tattooed with black and red 
inks on the soft white belly 

Below the breasts. "My God," Ramirez said, "there it is." 

Lois answered, "A fellow dared her," and looked for Lance, 

Who trembled and said, "Cover her up, damn you." 

Lois blinking drew down the blouse. Ramirez giggled, 

"My God, a U. S. flag at the peak," and reached 

Over Lois's shoulder to raise the cloth; 

Lance struck and felled him, and stepping across him fallen 

Leaned and strode toward the cliff and the red coals 

That had been the fire. 

Drunken Charlie lay on the sand, 

The iron bolt erect by his feet; Lance caught it up 

And smashed the jug, and saw the remnant of whiskey 

Glitter among the shards to sink into sand. 

He ground his teeth; he saw in his mind in the stream of images 

A second jug, and began to search for it. 

The tide had fallen, the 
steep ribbon of beach was but little wider, 

But the sea was become so flattened that no waves flashed. Enor- 
mous peace of the sea, white quiet of the cliff, 

And at their angle and focus a few faint specks of humanity 
happy in liquor or released in sleep, 

But Lance alone. Then noises like the cries of a woman scream- 
ing, bird after bird of sharp-colored sound 



Flew on the face of the cliff, tattered wild wings against jagged 

rocks. On the cliff head the patient horses 
Turned their ears, grooving small wrinkles about the roots of the 

cartilage, but did not lift up their heads; 
And the sea was not moved, nor the moonlight quivered. Will 

Howard was lying beside Nell Ramirez; they'd fallen asleep 
Before he had his desire; they sighed and stirred in the sand. He 

murmured "Oh, somebody's got hysterics," 
And wriggled his fingers, which had grown painfully numb 

between her plump knees. But Lois, Leo Ramirez 
And Drunken Charlie heard the sounds nearer; they went in a 

wind of fear to find out their fountain, 
And Sadie awoke in the sand and followed heavily, 
Falling but once, catching her clothes that slipped, 
Whining at the hollow pain in her skull. 

Beyond a rock 
Stood Lance, high white in the moon-glaze, distorted, taller than 

Lois said, "Dearie?" He babbled, "Oh Jesus Christ Oh Jesus 

Christ Oh Jesus Christ," 

Behind him in a great shadow of her hair darkened 
By the rock-shadow Fayne turned her white wedge of face 
With three holes in it. She was kneeling, bent S-shape, 
And seemed to stare up from the very ground. She said, "I think 
It is finished. Water please. Water please. 
He fell down from the cliff." Then Michael's feet were seen, 
And thence the prone extended ridge of his body 
Ending indefinitely under Fayne's face. 
Lois cried, "He's hurt." But they dared not approach 
For Lance standing between, high and twisted 
Like a dead tree. Lance said, "I . . ." Fayne cried, 
"He fell down from the cliff." They all stood silent, 
Lois's mouth opened and closed on silence 

Three times, then asked, "Is he hurt?" Lance said, "Oh Christ. 
I ..." Fayne cried so that his words were hidden, 
And stood up and said, "He has died. Michael. 
He was climbing the cliff and fell, his foot caught on that bush; 
He struck his head on that rock, on that edge of rock. 



It is all broken in. Oh, we loved him." 

Ramirez said, "What for did he climb up there?" 

"Have we drunk waterY* Fayne said. But Lance began 

To shake, like a tall dead mast of redwood that men are felling, 

It is half cut through, each dip of the axe the sonorous timber 

quivers from the root up to the cloud, 
He said "I caught them . . ." "He caught him," Fayne cried, 

"when he fell but he could not save him." "I killed . . ." 

"You are wild with sorrow 
He fell head down whether you'd tried to catch him or not. 

You are not to blame." He said, "It is horrible 
To hear the lies from her mouth like bees from a hot hive: I am 

the one," but Fayne running to him 
Made an animal moan in her throat in time to hide what he said. 

She came to Lance, and her face 
Like a held spear, and said, "Drunkard. 
Too drunk to be understood. Keep still until you can talk and be 

understood." He drew backward from her, 
Shuddering like a horse from a snake, but when his back was 

against the rock he stammered, "I 

Will find my time." "Yes," she answered, "be quiet now. To- 
morrow when you are better they'll understand you." 
"Is he dead?" "Keep still. Will you shame his end 
With drunkard babbling? For he was the dearest," she said, "in 

the world to all of us. Lovelier than morning light 
On the mountain before the morning. There is not one of us 

would not have died for him: / would, / would, / would," 
She cried writhing, "but not lose Lance too. How can I plan to 

save him, I've got what I can't bear? 
You are all our friends." 
She set her hands in the masses of red-dark hair, dark in the 

moonlight, and tearing it, with her white face 
To the white moon: "That eye's blind. Like Juan Arriba's old 

mare he used to beat on the face, 
Her eyes froze white like that. He was larking on the cliff and 

fell." She seemed to be treading a tragic dance, 
She was scuffling sand to cover the bolt of shipwreck that lay in 

the shadow of the rock; she wrung her hands 



And knelt moaning by Michael's head; she rose with blood on her 
hand and fibers of hair, and ran 

To the rock under the cliff. "This rock killed him. He fell on this 
edge," she drew her hand on the edge 

And the rock was stained. Then Sadie was heard gasping from 
her poor stained face. One or two looked at her. "O-uh," 

She whispered hoarsely, "we was having fun!" 

Lance moved at 
length, like a dead man walking, toward his dead brother, 

And stooped as one stoops to gather a sleeping child. Fayne ran 
and said, "No, the man. No, the man. 

He has to come." Lance turned toward her his face like a para- 
lyzed man's 

Slack with peace, and said softly, "The man." 

"He'd think wrong has been done. I can't think . . . coroner. 

Don't take him up." "Home?" he said, 

Seeming gently surprised; he gathered the body 

Into his arms and walked along the foot of the cliff. 

Fayne stayed behind a moment, the others following. 

She cast quick looks over the rocks and sand; 

One end of the rusty bolt was visible still; 

She leaned toward it and fell on her face. She labored up 

And went ten steps to the ebb and flung the iron 

To the water edge. 

Lance walked along the foot of the cliff. 

He turned, not where the path went up, and walked 

Into the face of the cliff, and stood there walking 

Like an ox in a tread-mill, until Ramirez 

Showed him the path. Fayne went up behind him. 

Half way up 

He awoke a moment out of his automatism 

To feel failure and pain, his breathing like knives, and the failure 

Of his eyes; it was impossible to see the path; 

He checked a step and fell forward. 

Fayne came up to him 

And stood; there was nothing that she could do. They lay 

Very peacefully together, Lance's face 

On his brother's breast. She looked across them; 



Terribly far down the moonlight cliff crouched the dark sea. 
Ramirez came up and stood. Fayne said they had not the strength 

to carry up either of the fallen, and so 
They had to wait. They heard a faint breeze through the dry 

bushes; and the crying of sea-lions far down below, 
Where eight or ten were lying in a circle by the softly heaving 

kelp-bed, as their custom is, and gazed 
With great mild eyes at the sky and the night of water. Then 

they sing in their manner, lifting up sleek 
Dark-shining muzzles to the white moon, making a watery noise 

of roaring and a lonely crying 
For joy of life and the night. 

At length Lance 

Began to paw with his feet like a dreaming hound, 
And some stones fell. He knelt and stood up 
And took his burden and went up. 

When they entered the sleep- 
ing farmstead, 

Fayne led the horse; Lance held his brother and rode behind him, 
It would be hard to tell which one was slain 
If the moon shone on their faces. The horse stopped and sighed 
By the garden-gate; Lance did not move to dismount, 
But sat and held up his brother. Fayne came beside, 
Reaching to help; Lance whispered "Ah, ah, thank God." 
"What?" "He may be saved, Fayne. 
He is hot under the arms and I heard him breathe." 
"You heard the horse breathe," she said. They lifted down 
The unmanageable weight. 

Oh, ignorant penitents, 

For surely the cause is too small for so much anguish. 
To be drunk is a folly, to kill may call judgment down, 
But these are not enormous evils, 
And as for your brother, he has not been hurt. 
For all the delights he has lost, pain has been saved him; 
And the balance is strangely perfect, 
And why are you pale with misery? 
Because you have saved him from foolish labors and all the vain 




From desires denied, and desires staled with attaining, 

And from fear of want, and from all diseases, and from fear of 


Or because you have kept him from becoming old, 
When the teeth drop and the eyes dim and the ears grow dull, 
And the man is ashamed? 

Surely it is nothing worse to be slain in the overflowing 
Than to fall in the emptiness; 
And though this moon blisters the night, 
Darkness has not died, good darkness will come again; 
Sometimes a fog will come in from sea, 
Sometimes a cloud will crop all the stars. 


The moonlight from the west window was a square cloth 

Laid on the floor, with one corner on the bed, 

Lying over Michael's hand; they had taken him 

To his own room. Fayne whispered: "Now we must tell them. 

Your mother may dieher sick heart. 

Don't let her die too bitterly. For this one night, dear, 

Say nothing worse than 'Michael's gone.' Spare her something 

Until she has cried. Four hours' mercy. By morning 

That heart of hers will be seasoned." Fayne strained in the dark 

To see his face. He answered in a short while, 

"How many mornings I've come in here 

And routed him out of bed. He always was a late sleeper. 

Sound asleep, Mother." Fayne caught his arm. "Can't you hear 

"You," he said, "keep your hands off! . . . Until morning 

I'll say he fell." 

It was not morning, but the moon was down. 

The old mother sat by the bed with her hand on Michael's, regu- 
larly her great fat-swollen body 

Jerked with a sob, and tears were spurted from her closed eyes. 
Old Fraser sat with his fists evenly 

Together on his knees, his bony face held erect, the brown eyes in 
their hollows red with lamplight. 

Fayne heard the noise of a motor starting and left the room. 



He was backing out the big truck, 

The shed was full of the headlight glare, the ruby tail-light 

glowed by the axle. Before she could come 
It had crept out; its light swung up the driveway by the stooping 

And picked from darkness the heavy timbers of the high corrals 

and the white beehives remote on the hill; 
Fayne ran down the river of light to the gate and closed it, and 

stood in the gate for fear he might smash through; 
But Lance came wearily to open; stooping, tall, 
Black on the light. She said, "Oh, where?" "You know. 
Tell dad to come to Salinas and get the truck; 
There wasn't enough gas in the little one." 
She answered, "Can the sheriff make us happy again? 
Or the judge make Michael alive again?" "Open the gate." 
"Yes, dear. Listen to me. When Arriba and his boys 
Stole cows of ours, did you run to the courthouse? 
We take care of ourselves down here. What we have done 
Has to be borne. It's in ourselves and there's no escaping, 
The state of California can't help you bear it. 
That's only a herd of people, the state. 
Oh, give your heart to the hawks for a snack o' meat 
But not to men." When she touched him with her hands, 
Pleading, he sighed and said, "If I'd been nearer 
My decent mind, it would have been you, not Michael. 
Did y' love him? Or was it only because you're female 
And were drunk, female and drunk?" "Oh. Hush. I was begging 


Not to leave us, as I'm begging you. He promised me, dear. 
He said he'd not go away. I kissed him for that; he was our 


And you came behind." Lance's blackness of his leaning bulk 
Vibrated in the light-beam. "It'd be a pity for me then. 
I can't see clear, in the dirty streaming memories . . . 
Don't be afraid; your part will be secret. 
I'll say I killed him for nothing, a flea-bite quarrel, 
Being beastly drunk." "He was killed," she answered, "for 




"It's a great pity for me then. 

Open the gate." She clung to the timber bolt 

To hold it home in the slot, and felt his mind 

Tearing itself. "Lance. Lance? Sweetheart: 

Believe . . . whatever you need to save you. 

I won't give you up. You can't remember what happened; 

I tell you he fell from the cliff. But if your dreadful 

Dream were true, I know you are strong enough 

To give your heart to the hawks without a cry 

And bear it in lonely silence to the end of life. 

What else do you want? Ah. Confession's a coward 

Running to officers, begging help. Not you." 

She heard 

The scrape of slow boots on gravel outside the light-stream, 
Across the pulses of the idling motor, and suddenly cried, 
"He fell from the cliff." An old man said in the dark, 
"They ain't got consideration. Where was you going 
This time o' night, after what's happened? Your dad wants you. 
Your ma's took bad." Lance moaned and stood still. 
Fayne said, "He was going to Lobos to telephone 
The doct . . . the coroner. Dearest, you ought to go in. 
She suffered great pain before, she was near death. 
Old Davie will drive up the coast for you 
When daylight comes." "Oh," he said stilly, and turned 
His face to the fountains of light; it gleamed without meaning 
In the stream of radiance like a stake in a stream, 
Except that from exhaustion the pupils of the eyes 
Failed to contract, so that their secret interiors 
Of their chambers returned the light all sanguine. 
At length he kneaded them with his fists and said, 
"I can't see well. You'll have to help me find the way in. 
It's not a trick of yours, uh?" 


His mother lay on the floor, 

For Michael's body lay on the bed. The sun of pain at her heart 
had rays like skewers of anguish 



Along the left arm and up by the jugular arteries. She dared 

not move; her face stood wet-white and still, 
With live blue eyes; but the clay-pale lips opened and closed. 

Old Eraser had swathed her in hasty blankets. 
Fayne entered; Lance behind her stood swaying and stooping 

in the door and saw his father 
Crouched beside the great cocoon of the blankets; and Michael in 

the bed above, and trinkets of Michael's 
That hung on the wall, gleam in the lamplight. The violence of 

pain was brief; she whispered "better/* and breathed 
With greedy shallow passion; her eyes found Lance. 


grayed slowly into the room; 
The lamp ran dry unnoticed. Lance and his father 
Labored and carried the heavy old woman to bed. 
Fayne brought them food, but Lance refused it. In the afternoon 
He walked outdoors for a time, but nothing farther 
Than the cattle-pens. Fayne must have been watching for him, 
Because she went and walked by his side, and said, 
When they were turned from the house, "Mary Abbey was here. 
It seems she expected to marry Michael, though he never told us. 
She cried a lot." Lance made no sign of hearing her. 
Fayne said, looking up sidelong at his cheek and jaw, 
Where the flesh hung thin on the bone: "Her griefs not 
Like ours, forever; but sharp at present. If she ever 
Imagined that you . . . how could we bear her looks? You are 

too strong, dear, 

To lay on weaker persons a burden 
That you alone ought to bear." He strode faster 
And stopped, muttering, "He lies up there, like that. 
And my mother, like that; and I have done it; 
And you talk about Mary Abbey." Fayne said, "I have no time 
To choose names, for a man is coming to-day 
To question us. He's sent for. I have to tell you that you must 

choose whether to relieve 

Your own weakness , . . conscience I mean ... by easy con- 



Or bear the whole weight unhelped. The first way's easy; you'll 

be acquitted; you'll be left humbled and soiled, 
But free; for confession is not enough; and you were too lost to 

remember anything clearly; and I 
Am the one witness. I saw him climb on the cliff and fall. So your 

conscience will be well comforted, 
And fairly cheap. Only your mother perhaps will die of it; your 

father and I will swallow our portion; 
And the crowd at Salinas 
Will have had a good time watching your face in court. It would 

be harder, if youVe a snake in your heart, 
To keep it shut there." 

He was silent, and drew sharp breath and 

said, "A red-haired one. Ah. 

A white one with a red brush. Did you do it with him 
Or not?" "Leave that," she said stilly; "this choice is now? 
He groaned and answered, "My mind's not quick like yours. 
. . . I'll not lie to them." "Let me show your mind to you; 
Be patient a moment still; if I seem cruel, 
That's to save, all that's left. Look at yourself: 
A man who believes his own sweet brother's blood 
Lies on his hands: yet 

Too scrupulous to tell a lie, for his mother's life. 
Our minds are wonderful." He meditated, and answered 
Heavily, "The sunlight seems dull but red. 
What makes it red?" "Your eyes are sick of not sleeping; 
Or there's a forest-fire in the south." "Our minds? Little bottles 
That hold all hell. I seem too tired to feel it, though. 
I'll think, I'll think." 

"You have no time for thinking. He will come probably 
Within this hour." "Who? Let him come. I'll tell him 
God made them male and female but men have made 
So-and-so ... I fall asleep while I talk . . . whiskey eh? 
Lighted the sticky fire. It's not possible 
I'd ever done it except that I stumbled on you 
In the heart of guilt. I know that." "Believe it then," 
She answered shrilly, and stood twitching her lips 
In the white freckled face, in the reddish light of her hair, 



"If that will help." "Oh," he said. 

"... I wish you had picked from another tree." 

She answered: "You are to say that you found him dying. 

You heard me cry, and he was down by the rock. 

Isn't that the truth exactly, because you remember 

No previous thing? You heard me cry out; you came; 

Michael was dying or had died. That's all. You carried him home. 

. . , I wish he'd come." 

But the man did not come 
Until afternoon the next day. Dark weather, for a stagnant ocean 

of cloud was hung on the sky, 
And what light shone came colored like the taste of metal through 

smoke of burning forests far to the south, 
That veiled the coast, so that it seemed brown twilight 
In the house, in Michael's room. A lamp was lighted, 
The death-wound viewed. "Who saw him fall?" "I alone. 
My husband and others came when I cried." "Where is your 


"With his mother," she answered faintly. "She had an attack, 
Her heart, angina, and has to lie still. Shall I 
Call him, sir?" her voice hardening, her eyes 
Growing hard and narrow. "Pretty soon. Was this young man 
In trouble about anything?" "No." "A girl?" "He was engaged 
To Miss Abbey." "They had a quarrel, ah?" "No." 
"Did he seem cheerful?" "Very." "They always do. 
Yesterday I had to drive by Elkhorn Slough 
Because a very cheerful old man opened his throat 
With his nephew T s pen-knife. I was two hours 
Finding that place; the farmers around there they couldn't tell 


Whether Jesus Christ died on the cross 
Or at the battle of Bull Run." 

Old Eraser had stood 
Nerveless and dreaming over the livid face 
Since they uncovered it; abruptly he turned his head 
Above his bowed shoulder, saying "It's enough. 
Dog, blaspheme not. Go to your own place. 
My son found death in recklessness, I fear in folly; 



Write that and leave us alone; go hence and leave us 

To mourn and hope." "Well, Mr. Fraser. You understand . . ." 

"I am very patient," the old man said, thrusting 

His hollowed face toward the other, the closely set 

Inflamed brown eyes pushing like the burnt end of a stick 

That has been used to stir fire; the man stepped backward. 

"Did he say patient! . . . Well, is your husband here?" 

Payne's mouth jerked and froze hard, her hands quieted. 

"I will call him. Come to the room downstairs." 

She said at the foot of the stair, "This way, sir. It's dark. 

Will you have to go ... to see the cliff, to see 

The cliff?" "Hm, what's that?" "Where he fell." 

"Can we drive there?" "No, ride and walk." "Look here," 

He said, "I've come sixty-five miles already. 

You're sure it was accidental?" "Yes." "Well. 

I always try to save the family feelings 

When the case is not clear." He tried his pen, 

Shook it, and wrote. Fayne watched, quiet and cold, thinking that 


Would not have to be questioned; he was saved now; 
And saw the man to his car. When he had gone 
She thought that now she could laugh or cry if she wanted to, 
Now Lance was saved, but her nerves and her mind stood quiet. 

She looked at the dusty gate and the dark house-gable 
In the stagnant air against the black cloud, and perceived that all 

events are exact and were shaped beforehand, 
And spaced in a steel frame; when they come up we know them; 

there is nothing for excitement. 

She went in, 

And found Lance in the dark at the head of the stair, bent for- 
ward like a great bird. "Has he gone, Fayne?" 
"Did you know he was here?" "I will live on," he answered, 

"seems to be best. I loved him well; he died instantly, 
No anger nor pain. Davis has dug a place by the children's 


On account of the dull weather 
And closing twilight the group on the hilltop was hardly visible 

in their vast scene. It was quite evident 



That not only Pico Blanco against the north, and the gray Ven- 

tanas, but even every dry fold 
And gully of the humbler hills was almost by an infinite measure 

of more importance 

Than the few faint figures on the bare height, 
The truck, and three saddled horses, 
And some persons. 

The old man swayed and shook, standing praying 
At the head of a dug slot 
Beside the pile of pale earth. 
The heavy great brown-furred sky that covered all things made 

a red point in the west, lost it and darkened, 
And the Point Sur lighthouse made a thin stabbing from the 


Swaying on his heels and toes the old man prayed: 

"Oh Lord our God, when thy churches fell off from thee 

To go awhoring after organ music, 

Singing-women and lecturers, then my people 

Came out from among them; and when thy last church, 

Thy little band, thy chosen, was turned at length 

To lust for wealth and amusement and worldly vanities, 

I cried against them and I came forth from among them. 

I promised thee in that day that I and my house 

Would remain faithful, thou must never despair; 

I said, though all men forget thee thou hast a fort 

Here in these hills, one candle burning in the infidel world, 

And my house is thy people. 

My children died, 

And I laid them in this place and begot more children 
To be thy servants, and I taught them thy ways, but they fell 

away from thee. 

They found their pleasure among the ungodly, and I believe 
They made themselves drunk with wine, and my dear son is 

He died on the shore. One half of the curse of Eli has fallen 

upon me." 
He covered his face with his knotted hands and stood gasping, 



And said, "I loved him. Here he is, Lord. 

Surely thou hast forgiven his sins as I have forgiven them, 

And wilt lift him to thy glory on the last day." 

The old man stood silent, lifting his face, and fixed his deep 

close-set eyes, like the eyes of an old ape, 
Small, dark and melancholy under the bar of the brow, between 

the wide cheek-bones, fixed them far off 
Across the darkening ridges and ocean upon that single red spot 

that waned in the western sky, 
And said "The world darkens and the end is coming. 
I cannot beget more children; I am old and empty, 
And my wife is old. All men have turned their faces away from 


I alone am thy church. Lord God, I beseech thee not to despair, 
But remember thine ancient power, and smite the ungodly on 

their mouths 
And the faithless churches with utter destruction. For Jesus' 

sake, amen." While he prayed, Fayne watched Lance 
With pity and fear; and Mary Abbey, who was there with her 


Kept stealing glances at Lance through her wet eyelashes. 
She whispered to Fayne: "Oh, Lance looks dreadfully. 
I never knew he loved him so dreadfully." 
Fayne answered, "Yes, he did"; and looked up at Lance 
With pity and fear. "He looks as if he'd fall sick," 
Mary said. Fayne answered, "No, he is strong. 
He hasn't eaten since Michael died; maybe 
He hasn't slept." Mary said, wiping her eyes, 
"His face is so sad and fine, like carved marble. 
They say he carried him all the way home, up that cliff." 
The old man ended his prayer, the redwood box 
Was lowered with ropes; Lance had the weight at one end, 
Old Fraser and Davis at the other. The ropes cut grooves 
In the earth edges. While they were shovelling earth, 
Mary Abbey, with a sudden abandoned gesture 
Of the hand that had the handkerchief in it, ran up to Lance 
On the scraped ground. "Don't grieve so." She reached and 




His hand on the spade-handle. "It makes me afraid for you. 

We all loved him; life has to go on." He jerked his hand, 

And looked down at her face with startled eyes 

So pale gray-blue that all the light that remained in the world 

Under the low black sky seemed to live in them, 

Stammering, "No. No. He fell from the cliff." She said, "I know, 

We have to bear it. I loved him too." He gathered his dreaming 

Into the bundle again and said, "Oh. All right. Please keep out of 

the way for the time. 

We have this to do." "Good-bye," she answered patiently. "Fa- 
ther's calling me." 

The pit was filled full and mounded; 
Fayne came and said, "What was she saying to you?" "Nothing. 

Who?" "Mary Abbey." "I didn't see her." 
"What, Lance? She came and spoke to you." "I'd rather be there 

with Michael," he answered. "Dear, you must rouse yourself. 
Life has to go on." "Somebody was saying so, I think. 
There's not a hawk in the sky." She answered from a hoarse 

throat, "After dark? What are you dreaming? 
See, Davie's turned on the headlights." "I hate them," he said, 

"killers, dirty chicken-thieves." 

The farm-truck headlights 
Shone on the mounded earth, and cast its enormously lengthened 

shadow and the shadows of a few moving 
Persons across the world, with the beam of light, over mound 

beyond mound of bare autumn hills, and black 
Ocean under the black-roofed evening. 


That night he returned 

To lie with Fayne in their bed, but like two strangers 
Lying in one bed in a crowded inn, who avoid 
Touching each other; but the fifth night 
She laid her hand on the smooth strength of his breast, 
He pretended to be asleep, she moved against him, 
Plucking his throat with her lips. He answered, "After all? 



You're right. If we're to live in this life 

We'll keep its customs." He approached her confidently, 

And had no power. The little irrational anger 

At finding himself ridiculous brought to his mind 

That worse rage, never before clearly remembered, 

But now to the last moment; or imagined. He drew 

His limbs from Payne's without thinking of her, and lay still, 
with shut fists, 

Sweating, staring up spirals of awful darkness, that spun away up 
and wound over his eyes 

Around a hollow gray core with flecks in it. "I am damned un- 
justly. I did it in a moment." 

But Fayne knew nothing 

Of the shut agony beside her; only she was troubled at heart, and 

Whether he had ceased to love her said tenderly, "Sleep, 

Darling. I didn't mean. I didn't want. 

Only I love you." He felt her instinctive hand 

Move downward fondling along the flat of his belly. 

He set it aside and spoke, so low that her ears 

Lost every word between the hair and the pillow. 

"What, dearest?" "I know it," he said, "they're dogs: that was 

Fit to tell dogs. I can be damned 

At home as well." "Hush, dear." "I don't make a good murderer," 

He said, "I sweat." She was silent and heard him breathing, 

And mourned, "Oh, cover your mind with quietness to-night. 

In the morning you'll face it down again. This will get well with 

It was really only a dreadful accident." "Very damnable," he said, 

"Very true." Fayne said, "We'll live, sweetheart, to feel it 

Only a dreadful accident, and the sad death 

Of one we loved." "That's your smooth skin. 

The fires fester on mine. Will you do something 

For me?" "Dearest, with all my heart." "An easy kindness: 

Shut up your mouth." 

He got up after a time; 



When he went out she followed, trembling. He turned on her 

Outside the door. "I'm not going to Salinas," 

He whispered, "nor bump myself off either. 

I'll not starve your hawks of their snatch o' meat. 

Now let me alone for Christ's sake." She stood and saw him 

Against the starlit window at the end steal down 

The hallway, go past the stairhead, and enter the empty 

Room of his brother. He slept there from that night on, 

And seemed to regain calm strength. 


In the course of a month 
Rain seemed at hand, the south wind whetting his knife on the 

long mountain and wild clouds flying; 
Lance and his father set out to burn the hill to make pasture. They 

carried fire in forkfuls of straw 
Along the base of the south wall of their valley; the horses they 

rode snorted against it, and smoke 
Boiled, but the seaward end of the hill would only be burnt in 

patches. Inland, at the parched end, 
A reach of high grass and sage might have led out the fire to the 

forest, and Lance rode up 

To watch a flame down the wind to black out the danger. 
He carried two barley-sacks and went to the Abbeys' trough 
At the hill spring to dip them, to beat down the fire's 
Creepings up wind. From that spur of the mountain 
He saw the planted pine trees at Abbey's place, 
And riding back with the dipped sacks, the vale 
Of his own place, the smoke-mist, and Sycamore Creek 
Wound like a long serpent down the small fields. 
He set his fires and watched them rage with the wind, 
Easily stifling their returns, riding herd 
On the black line; then from the base of the hill 
Red surf, and the dark spray rolled back by the wind, 
Of the other fire came up roaring. The lines met 
On the fall of the hill like waves at a river's mouth 
That spout up and kill each other, and hang white spray 
On cold clear wind. 



A rabbit with blazing fur broke through the back-fire, 

Bounding and falling, it passed by Lance and ran 

Straight into the stem of a wild lilac bush, 

He saw it was blind from the fire, and watching it struggle away 

Up its dark pain, saw Mary Abbey coming down the black hill 
against the white sky, 

Treading on embers. Lance turned and hardened in the saddle, 
and saw the vale below him a long trough of smoke 

Spilled northward, then Mary came near and said, "I wanted to 
talk to you. I saw you ride by the water-trough." 

He shuddered and said, "What? I'll watch the fire." "Fayne 
doesn't like me so well I think 

Since Michael . . . indeed I'm ashamed to be always around your 

"I noticed you there," he said, carefully regarding 

The dark braids of her hair, and the pale brown face 

Seen from above. "I don't know," she said. 

"My father says to go away for a time, 

His sister lives on a place in Idaho. 

But I wouldn't want to forget. But I told Fayne . . . 

So I don't know. We could see that you grieved for him 

More deeply than anyone else, and all these great hills are empty." 

He said, "Is that all?" "Ah . . . ? Yes," she answered, 

And turned away and looked back. Lance found that the bridle- 

Had broken suddenly between his hands, and said "You won't get 
anything from Fayne; she's hard as iron. 

Why do you follow us around? What do you think you'll find 
out?" She said, "Your grief is greater perhaps, 

For you knew him longer. But you have Fayne and I have no- 
body: speak kindly to me. As I remember, 

At first it came from seeing you and Fayne so happy in each 

I wanted to be like that. I can't talk well, like Fayne, 

But I read a great deal." He stared at her face and began to knot 
the bridle, his hands relaxing, 

And said, "I must ride around by the oak-scrub and see that the 
fire has checked. I've got to be watchful always. 



Will you stay here?" He went and returned and said, "Come 

down to our place whenever you are lonely, Mary. 
My mother's quite well again. His death was ... do people talk 

much about it?" She looked in wonder at his face, 
And he with numbed lips: "What lies do they . . . can't you 

speak out?" "I never 

Talked about it with anyone, since Nina Dolman 
Told us that day. Truly there's nothing to be said by anyone 
Except, he was bright with life and suddenly nothing, nothing, 

nothing, darkness." 

Lance breathed and said sharply, "I wouldn't bet on it 
If I were you. Mary, you are tender and merciful: 
Don't come to the house; Fayne is like iron. You'd better 
Run home and forget about us. Unless you should hear something 
I ought to know." "What do you mean?" "Good-bye." 
She saw his bridle-hand lift, she said "I've no pride, 
I pray you not to leave me yet, Lance. 
I loved him greatly, and now that bond hangs cut, 
Bleeding on the empty world, it reaches after 
You that were near him, Fayne and you. I was always 
Without companions, and now I'd give anything 
To be in your friendship a little." "Anything?" he said. 
"You faithful women. 

Fayne was five days. Mmhm, I have seen a vision. 
My eyes are opened I believe." 

He rode across the burnt hill, 
Watching the wind swirl up the ashes and flatten 
The spits of smoke. Past the singed oak-scrub he began to wonder, 
If there was honey in the little tree, had . . . the dead 
Tasted it before he died? "You'd better be off to Idaho. 
... I shy from his name like a scared horse. 
By God, I'd better get used to it; I've got to live with it." 
He looked sharply all about the burnt solitude 
To be sure of no hearers, and recited aloud: 
"I killed Michael. My name is Lance Fraser. 
I murdered my brother Michael. I was plastered, 
But I caught 'em at it. I killed my brother Michael. 
I'm not afraid to sleep in his room or even 



Take over his girl if I choose. I am a dog, 

But so are all." 

The tall man riding the little bay horse 

Along the burnt ridge, talking loudly to nothing but the ash- 
drifting wind; a shadow passed his right shoulder; 

He turned on it with slitted eyes, and saw through the strained 
lashes against the gray wind a ghastly old woman 

Pursuing him, bent double with age and fury, her brown cloak 
wild on the wind, but when she turned up the wind 

It was only a redtail hawk that hunted 

On the burnt borders, making her profit in the trouble of field- 
mice. Lance groaned in his throat "Go up you devil. 

Ask your high places whether they can save you next time." 


Leo Ramirez rode down on business 
About redwood for fence-posts; he asked in vain 
For Lance, and had to deal with old Eraser. When he went out 
He saw red hair around the corner of the house 
And found Fayne in the garden, and asked for Lance. 
"I couldn't tell you. I saw him ride to the south. 
He'll be home soon for supper." Ramirez stood 
In troubled silence, looking at the earth, and said 
"I wonder ought I to tell him . . ." Payne's body quivered 
Ever so slightly, her face grew carefully blank. 
'What, Leo?" "Will Howard, for instance. Mouths that can't 
Shut up for the love of God." "He drives the coast-stage," 
Fayne answered carefully. Ramirez looked over the creek 
At the branded flanks of the south hill, and no rain had come 
To streak them with gray relentings. "He didn't see it," 
He said; "and those two janes on vacation 
Went back to town the next day." He giggled, remembering 
The sailing-ship stippled on the white skin, 
And fixed his mind smooth again. Fayne said, "How dares he 
Lie about us?" Ramirez's brown soft eyes 
Regarded her with mournful wonder and slid away. 
He said, "You was very quick-thinking." "What?" she said, "You 
were there. 



And when I cried to him to be careful you looked 
And saw him larking on the rock, and you saw him fall, 
You could see very plainly in the awful moonlight. 
These are things, Leo, that you could swear to." He nodded, 
And slid his red tongue along his dry lips and answered, 
"Yes'm." "So Howard's a liar," she said. "But don't tell Lance; 
He'd break him in two. We'll all do very well, 
All wicked stories will die, long long before 
Our ache of loss." "Yes'm." She walked beside him 
To his tethered horse, and charmed him with an impulsive hand- 
After he was in the saddle. 

She stood with her face high, the 

great sponge of red hair 
Lying like a helmet-plume on her shoulders, and thought she was 

sure of conquering security but she was tired; 
She was not afraid of the enemy world, but Michael would never 

be here laughing again. On the hill, 
In the hill he lay; it was stranger than that, and sharper. And his 

Ought to be hated a little in the much love. The smells in the 

wind were of ocean, the reedy creek-mouth, 
Cows, and wood-smoke, and chile-con-carne on the kitchen stove; 

it was harder to analyze thoughts in the mind. 
She looked at the dear house and its gables 
Darkening so low against the hill and wide sky and the evening 

color commencing; it was Lance's nest 
Where he was born, and his great white body grew high and 

beautiful. Old Davie shuffled up from the calf-pens 
Into the house; then far and high, like a tiny horn on the hill 

against the green-saffron heaven 
Lance grew into sight, the man and the horse and the evening 

peace. He was well again; he was sometimes cheerful 
Since the early plowing; his muscles needed strong labor. He was 

like this mountain coast, 
All beautiful, with chances of brutal violence; precipitous, dark- 

natured, beautiful; without humor, without ever 



A glimmer of gayety; blind gray headland and arid mountain, 

and trailing from his shoulders the infinite ocean. 
So love, that hunts always outside the human for his choice of 


Pictured her man on her mind. He dropped from sight 
In the hill thickets. She thought, "That's the direction 
From the Abbeys' or farther south. Mary Abbey's 
Quit haunting our house." The sky grew ever more luminous 

The hills more solid purple. At the valley sea-mouth pale rose 

layered over amber, and over the rose 
Pale violet, high over the lifted hawk-wings of divided hills, to 

one fine twist of flamingo-feather 
Cloud flying in the wind and arch of the world. 

A bat flitted up 

the still glimmer. 

Fayne went up the drive and opened the gate 
For Lance coming across the fields. He looked 
As if he had fought, a victory; Fayne was silent; 
He nodded, and said, "I've got it over with. You were right." 
She saw a thin drift of blood on the bay's foreleg; 
A big brown bird hung from the saddle-thongs, 
The half-spread sail of one wing clasped Lance's knee; 
He had his rifle. "Another hawk, Lance?" "Fve been there,'* 
He answered. "Oh, this? I pick 'em off when I see 'em. 
I've been back to that place." "What place, dear?" "The . . . 
Slaughter-house. Under the cliff. Ah: I looked around there. 
And rubbed that . . . time into my eyes 
Until it formed. Now I guess it won't mix 
With every mouthful of air; I can call it to memory 
Or shut it up." Fayne looked at his drawn face. 
But she thought he seemed a degree restored 
To natural goodness again, for he dismounted 
And walked beside her. She smelled the prickly sweet fragrance 
Of whiskey, and said: "That nasty old man was there. 
Lance: you were careful with him?" "Care?" he said, "Hell. 
We talked about fish. ... I heard once about a fellow in jail 
Kept banging his head on the wall until he died: 



I'd liefer have done that than killed my brother. 
I often . . . miss him." He stopped to tie up the hawk's feet 
To the top wire of the fence; thence they went on 
Without speaking. 

At supper he said suddenly across the table, 

"Listen, dad. 
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? When Mikey and I 

were little you used to have prayers in the evenings 
And flogged us the times we snickered: why did you quit?" Old 

Fraser fixed his narrow-set apelike eyes 
On Lance's face; they seemed to become one thrusting darkness, 

but he said nothing. After a time 
Lance said, "But why did you quit?" "Because I grew old and 

powerless," the old man answered. Lance: "What was that 
You used to read about two sparrows for a farthing?" "The Book 

is there." He nodded toward the other room. 
"Look it out for yourself." When they stood up from table Lance 

said, "I wish you would read it for us, 

About the sparrows." "I will not," he said, "read for your mock- 
ery. I am utterly left alone on earth; 

And God will not rise up in my time." But Lance: "Doesn't it say 
No sparrow can fall down without God?" Fayne said, "Oh, 

Lance: come on." 

"No, no; I want him to read and pray. 
What does that mean, fall to earth without God? 
Does it mean that God fells it? Fayne and I 
Know better than that: ah, Fayne? We know, ah? 
But God connives. 

Do read about the two sparrows." His roving glance 
Came on his mother's blanched and full-moon face, 
The pouched watery blue eyes, and the mouth always 
Thirsting for breath. "No, no, I'll keep still, mother. 
I didn't want to tease him, I was in earnest 
To have prayers again." 

But he remained in the room 
Until his mother had gone up to bed, then instantly 
Said, "Listen, dad. Be a good sport. 



Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?" Fayne had watched 


Sitting stone-still, only twitching his hands, 
His face hollow in the lamp-shadow: she went quickly 
And touched his shoulder; she smoothed her hand on his throat, 
Saying, "Please, Lance, no more of that. Why will you do it?" 
"Sh," he said, "I have him by a raw spot: keep out. 
He spooned the gospel down my throat when I was a cub: 
Why's he so tight wi' that farthing? Once, dad, you whipped 


For spelling the name of God backward 
Until the red crucifixion ran down his legs. 
Do you remember the brave little brown legs 
All smeared and welted?" The old man eyed him and said, 
"You lie. He had a thorn-scratch that opened." "Booh," Lance 


"I won't quarrel with you. I want the truth: 
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?" Old Fraser 
Groaned, and the straight edge of the lamp-shade shadow 
That crossed his broad face obliquely over the burning 
Blackness of the eyes, but left the stiff mouth and jaw 
In the yellow light, shook with his passion. He said, "My Master 

Was mocked cruelly by those he loved, desiring to save them. 

You have a strong body, and if I struck you 
You'd take me by the wrists like a little child. I am in my house 

and I have no one to help me. 
I am old and worn out; my strength is gone and white hair has 

come, but honor has not come. I say that God 
Is not mocked; but a feeble ailing old man, who loved his boys 

too indulgently and has seen the blithe hands 
Reach out for damnation, and the happy feet ... Oh ... 
Is rightly mocked. Oh Lance, over Michael's death." Lance, pale 

and mumbling: "We all have troubles, old man; 
Yours have come late. Well. Are not two sparrows , . , n Faync 

cried, "Lance, Lance, for pity 
Hush, whatever he did to you when you were little. 
He earns peace now." "Mm," he said, "where's that? IVe 



Been trying to get him to call me about those sparrows: 

The old man won't play: we've an ace in the hole too. 

Here it is for nothing, old man: 

I rode by the Abbeys' line-fence along the steep 

Over Wreck Beach, and there's a young deer, a spike-buck, 

Hanging dead on the wire, made a bad jump 

From the low side. The barbs caught him by the loins, 

Across the belly at the spring of the haunches, the top wire. 

So there he hangs with his head down, the fore-hooves 

Reaching the ground: they dug two trenches in it 

Under his suspended nose. That's when he dragged at the barbs 

Caught in his belly, his hind legs hacking the air. 

No doubt he lived for a week: nothing has touched him: a young 


A week of torture. What was that for, ah? 
D'you think God couldn't see him? The place is very naked and 

open, and the sea glittering below; 
He hangs like a sign on the earth's forehead, y' could see him from 

China. . . . But keep the wind side. 
For a loving God, a stinking monument." "Bosh," the old man 


And stood up, and puckering a miminy mouth: "Your litde buck! 
There is not one soul in hell but would take his place on the wire 
Shouting for joy . . . and few men past fifty." Lance also, 
Made surly by the slow death of whiskey in his blood, 
Stood up: "Your merciful God, that made you whip little boys. 

We're dogs, 
But done licking those feet." He bulked in the old man's way to 

the door, towering in the shadow, and forced him 
Toward the near corner. Fayne ran between them. "Tell me the 

truth," Lance said, "do you believe in your God?" 
Old Fraser, who had stood glaring like a bayed cat, suddenly 

dwindled; and felt outside the walled cube 
Of lamplight, under gray stars no Scottish nor Palestinian uplands 

but the godless hills of America 
Like vacant-eyed bison lying toward the sea, waiting for rain. 

He moved his lips without breath, he struck 



His throat and said feebly: "I am choked and dried up with the 

running sands. 

I have prayed a great deal in vain, and seen the whole earth 
Shed faith like leaves; 

And the faces of sin round as the sun and morality 
Sneered to death. I cannot 
Live unless I believe. ... I cannot live"; 
And stood all shrunken. Lance, awed: "My God, who'd ever 'a' 


He could be plagued into honesty?" The old man 
Cried fiercely: "I believe. Ah: tell your people to be careful 
Of the God they have backed into a snarling corner, 
And laugh off like a dirty story." "That's it," Lance answered. 
"Dogs. We all are." He stood backward, the old man 
Passed slowly, staring, saying, "Make yourself ready if you can. 
For I see you are changed." 

Fayne shuddered and said, 

"What does he mean?" "He? Nothing. He means two sparrows 
For a farthing." She said, "Lance . . . Lance?" 
He moved to leave her; she breathed and said, "Can you hear? 
We were doing, what you thought. It seemed . . . usual 
That night: both drunk: he was going away ... So what you 

did, Lance, 

Was justice." "Agh," he said, "nudge me wi' that, still? 
I know it perfectly. What does it matter, what farthing 
Sold them?" Fayne, sobbing: "Oh, then, we did not. It is not true. 
I lied." "It would not be possible to tell you," he said, 
"How little I care." She, with both hands at her white throat, but 

lifting her face: 
"Yes. I can bear that. We've sailed I think away past the narrows 

of common faithfulness. Then care for this: 
To be able to live, in spite of pain and that horror and the dear 

blood on your hands, and your father's God, 
To be able to go on in pure silence 
In your own power, not panting for people's judgment, nor the 

pitiful consolation of punishing yourself 
Because an old man filled you with dreams of sin 



When you were little: you are not one of the sparrows, you are 

not a flock-bird: but alone in your nature, 
Separate as a gray hawk." "The very thing I was thinking," he 


"If you'd take your red hair and spindly face 
Out of my lamplight I'd be alone: it's like a burst blood-vessel 
In the eye of thought." 


Old Mrs. Fraser 

Caught cold and remained in bed, the bronchial pain 
Frightened her heart with memories of worse anguish. 
Fayne went back and forth from the stove to the bed 
Heating flannels, to lay them on the white upland 
Between the blond mountains of falling flesh 
That had fed Lance. Going by the curtainless window 
She looked whether she could see him, across the fields 
Or up the burnt hill. Not Lance, but a smaller figure 
Was coming down the black hill under white clouds: 
Mary Abbey: her father had horses enough, 
Was she walking down here? 

Lance's mother 

Wished for that wintergreen oil again; Fayne rubbed it 
On the white plain and the roots of the great soft udders. 
She could feel in her finger-tips the suck and rattle 
Of phlegm in the breathing-tubes, the old woman coughing 
And saying "I see there was four sheets in the wash again 
From you and Lance; well, dearie, don't fret. 
He's just his father all over, crazy as hawks. 
They get to thinking Antichrist and the Jews and the wicked 

Pope in Rome 

And scunner at every arrangement for human comfort. 
Then they come home like hungry sailors from sea. 
You're all worn out in the morning; my feet are cold." 
She coughed and panted; Fayne rubbed the oil. The old woman 


"My feet are cold." Fayne answered sadly "I'll rub them." 
"No, if you'd get me an iron; a fine hot flat-iron 



Done up in cloth is a great comfort in bed. 

Right often it's been a husband to me when my old man 

Was prophesying around and a fresh cow 

Cried all the night." 

Fayne went downstairs for the iron 

And heard a wonderful sound behind the house; she heard Lance 

She looked from the door and saw old Davie by the limewashed 
hen-house, leaning both hands on a long shovel, 

Gaze at the ground; Lance crouched near by, with blood on his 
hands and something between his knees, red feathers, 

That fiery old half-bred game-cock, that sent the dogs 

Yelping for mercy. A little Cooper's-hawk was tethered in front 
of Lance to a driven peg, 

One wing bloodily trailing; Lance pushed the game-cock to- 
ward it and the hawk fell, tripped by its wing, 

But crutched itself on the other and came up again, 

Erect and watchful, holding the earth with its yellow feet. 

Lance pushed and freed the game-cock, that eagerly 

Staring-hackled in his battle-passion 

Leaped up and struck down; the hawk tripped by its wing 

Fell quivering under the spurs, but a long-fingered 

Lean yellow hand reaching up out of ruin 

Plucked at the red king's breast: who charged again: one hawk- 

Waved, and the talons mysteriously accomplished 

Many quick bitter acts, whence the red king 

Reeled out of hope. He crouched beyond tether's reach, 

Propping himself on both wings, but the sinking head 

Still stretched for fight; then dull-eyed, at strength's end, 

Went staggering to it again. The yellow hands 

Easily made him what would never any more 

Chirp over bright corn to the hens or subdue a rival. 

Lance came, and the little hawk ran quickly and fell 

Onto its broken shoulder at the tether's end. Lance picked up 
the dying game-cock; 

Red grains of wheat from the torn crop fell down with the 
blood. Fayne watched from the open door; she saw him 



Turn at the click of a gate, and Mary Abbey came up from the 

creek-bed path. At sight of Lance 
She stopped; her hands went up to her throat. He, frowning: 

"What do you want . . . Mary?" She lowered her hands 
And stepping backward almost inaudibly said, "I ... 
Came the back way. I ... came to see Fayne." She had hurried 

and was breathing hard. Lance stared at her, 
And said "Go on in, confess your sins." He turned with his 

shoulder toward her; the bleeding bird in his hands 
Stretched itself, thrusting back with the spurs as if it were killing 

its last rival, and suddenly died, 
With a bright bubble of blood in the gaping beak. Old Davie 

laughed, but not Lance; the little hawk 
Stood up and watched all with intent eyes. Mary stayed wringing 

her hands and Fayne came from the door, 
Then Mary, half running toward her: "I hardly bear to see 

blood: let me go in." Fayne said to Lance: 
"It won." "It will lose," he said in his throat, "when my heel is 

on it." She, gravely: "It fought well, Lance. 
Have you hurt your hands?" "Ugh," he said, "nothing: the ver- 
min." He moved toward the little captive, that looked up at 

With cold intentness; the blood had started again from its broken 

shoulder and striped the dead wing. Mary Abbey, 
Shrilly, whipping the air with her hands: "Let me go!" Lance 

raised his foot to tread, but the victim's intent 
Concentration of binocular eyes looked human; Mary cried 

shrilly: "They told me, my father said . . . 
And Nina told me ... Oh Fayne!" Lance, suddenly rigid: 

"What's that?" Fayne answered steadily and said, "Its life 
Is little value to it with a broken wing. Come into the house." 

She answered "I am afraid." 
But approached the door, whispering "What kind of a house, 

with blood sprinkled 

Where you enter the door: what have you done? 
His hands are red." Lance turned from the hawk and said with 

his teeth showing, "Tell your father 



That I may soon be with this," he toed the dead cock, "our 

second-sighted old Scotchman has got a hunch, 
But not with that, not caught alive." She fled from him 
To the open door. Fayne, jerking her face but not 
Her shoulders toward him, said low: "You speak of things 
Less real than nothing. It is not courage to make 
Danger where there is none." She followed Mary Abbey 
Into the door, saying: "Lance is not well. He loved his brother 
Most deeply, and having heard of venomous talk 
Makes the wound burn. Have you too been listening 
To our enemies?" Mary, trembling in the house twilight: 
"I know you couldn't speak calmly, if, if ... Oh Fayne. 
But every person . . . What have I done?" "Will you hush," 

Fayne said, 

"Mrs, Gomez is probably not interested 
In your girl dreams." Then Mary was silent, seeing 
The dark ruler of the kitchen. Fayne took the iron, 
And said on the stair, "I have to attend to Lance's mother: 
You'd better stay with me. Then we'll walk." At the room door: 
"Mary Abbey is here, Mother." 

Mary faltered 
At the air of the room, the stove-heat and stale hangings in 

the air 

Of wintergreen and eucalyptus. She stood close to the door, 
And felt the weary mill turn in her mind, 
Unable to think of any definite thing, painfully grinding, turning. 

Old Mrs. Fraser 

Sniffed and said, "I can smell scorching cloth, 
Did you try it with a wet finger? It ought to sizz 
But if it whistles it will burn the sheets; Mary, are you sick? 
You look all blue by the mouth," she wagged her head in the 

pillow, "watch your heart." Fayne, kneeling 
To slip the iron under the covers of the bed, tossed back her 

bright hair and said, "She's all right, Mother. 
Lance was having a kind of cock-fight in the back yard, that 

struck her pale: she's one of those delicate 
Natures that die at seeing blood." 



The weary mill of the mind 

struck a hard kernel and seemed to fall 
Down hollow waters; Mary leaned on the door-frame, clenching 

her fists not to go down with it, biting 
Her white lip, the circle of sight contracted until only the blood- 

splatch of Fayne's hair was visible 
At the hub of the whirlpool. She slid with her back to the steep 

door-frame and did not fall; Fayne helped her 
To escape the room, the old woman far off proclaiming "It is her 


Mary leaned on the newel 

Of the stairhead to find her strength to go down, and said, 
"I am so caught. And someone has daubed every 
Beam of your house with it. All women have to bear blood 
But mine has stopped. Please go first, Fayne, 
For you don't hate me yet; now I can't bear 
To meet . . . anyone." Fayne slowly said, "It was Michael?" 
"I am in terror," she answered, "of every living thing, 
And him, and you." Payne's triangular face, 
The high cheek-bones and narrow jaw, thrust in the twilight 
Opposite the other's white oval, as a small perching hawk 
Thrusts with her head, forcing the shapes of things 
To grow alive in the motion of the eyes 
And yield up their hunted secrets: Fayne peered at her, 
Trembling, and said, "Then follow." 

They went out the front 

No one was seen; Fayne said: "It is horrible to be nearing New 

And still the dust and the sun, as if it could never rain. Would 

you like to be nurse to that old woman? 
She's Lance's mother." Mary said faintly, stumbling on the plain 

path, "I have no mother: and the raging 
Blue of your eyes hates me." "What you have heard," Fayne said, 

"is only the common lies of the shoie. 
It's natural for people to furnish a house with lies if it meets 

misfortune. When a man loses his property 



He's called fool, or thief; when they see you crushed 

By the sudden death of someone you love they begin to hint 

murder; it's human nature. If you're weak enough, 
Believe them; it won't hurt us. But what are you here for?" She 

answered, leaning her hand on the post of the little gate 
To steady her body: "I am not strong like you. I am in danger 

of killing myself, if ... 
Or if I believe them." "Better than you," Fayne said, "have died. 

Come on." A little way past the gate, 
Mary said, "What is it? You too are trembling!" She answered, 

trembling, "Oh no: my life is easy. Dear, 
We're friends, we mustn't make mysteries; tell me, won't you, 

what's all this web of trouble 

You stare so white through? You can count on my loving friend- 
ship, and my 

Forgiveness, if for any reason . . . My worst enemy 
Will call me warm-hearted; and if I once had the name 
Of being a jealous woman in my love for Lance: 
Well," she said with a calm voice, her face twisting 
Like a small white flame specked with flying ashes, 
"That wears, it softens. And he ... grows morose and strange, 
Is not perfectly a splendor in my eyes any more. 
I will confess that I cannot feel so warmly about him 
As once I did. . , . Here above the beehives, Mary, 
Nobody ever conies, and you could tell me 
Everything safely; and if any advice of mine 
Could help, though I am not wise." 

They stood silently, 

Turning their faces away from each other, 
In a wind acrid with stale honey and the life of bees. 
Mary Abbey shuddered and said, "I came here 
To tell you. Oh, Oh. I used to seem to myself 
Locked in, cold and unwishing; but . . . Michael's . . . love 
Made April in me, and the sudden emptiness of death 
Tore ... I was much changed: you remember 
How I clung to you in the desert of the days afterwards, 
And tired you into dislike, until you turned 
Hard eyes toward me. The first time I saw Lance alone 



He was riding in fire and ashes; he was more unkind 

Than you ever were." Fayne tasted 

The crack in her bitten lip, and shut her eyes and said softly, 

"Go on, sweetheart"; but the dark-haired one 

Only wept, and Fayne said, "You've told me nothing, 

Sweetheart." She answered, "Are you still really my friend? 

Don't look at me," and turned her face from Fayne, 

Saying, "I was so aching lonely. I only wanted 

To be friends with someone: he really ... he took me roughly 

On the great lonely hill; it hurt, does it hurt at first 

If you are loved?" Fayne had stopped trembling and stood 

With bones and teeth showing through the skin of her face, 

And trying to speak moaned slightly, and avoided 

The little blind hand feeling for hers. "But still I 

Strain and ache to be near him." Fayne took the hand, 

And with her unfleshed mouth kissed Mary's hair, 

And tried to speak, and with painful care: "Go ... on ... 

Sweetheart?" "Then they told me that he killed Michael. 

That was not true. Oh yes, I know, but I thought 

If I loved where I ought to hate I would kill myself. 

I have always been as regular as the new moon, 

And this time, twelve days have passed. When I was troubling 

About that, that was when they told me. I thought 

About a coyote that was caught near our house 

In two steel traps at once, so that it couldn't 

Stand nor lie down." Fayne touched her teeth with her tongue 

Until the stretched white lips came slowly to cover them, 

And said, "Do you mean?" She answered, "I am so caught. 

I know, I have a book about it. So I came here. 

Your dooryard was full of blood." Fayne said, "Maybe you are. 

He's travelled away past caring, and would let 

Nature fly. I'd naturally . . . 

I have to control my starts, because Lance, 

Who's worth ten thousand of you, hangs on the scale. 

D' y' love him, sweetheart?" She turned her face toward her, 

Saying, "Yes." Fayne mumbled and said, "I'd naturally . . . 

It's babies like you . . . Listen to me. 

I took Lance in my hand in that bad night 



To fling at the world. We do not have to let the dogs judge for 

us. I told him that we are our own people 
And can live by ourselves: if we could endure the pain of being 

lonely. Do you think you with Lance 

Could strangle time? I am holding the made world by the throat 
Until I can make it change, and open the knot that past time 

tied. To undo past time, and mend 
The finished world: while you were busy teething your young 

virginity. I have to control myself. 
Last year I'd 'a' let 

Nature fly; changed your baby face wi' my hands, 
Sweetheart: but I cannot risk: life has changed." "Oh Fayne! why 

did you say . . ." "I'm not a tame animal," 
She answered, "the wild ones are not promiscuous. What would 

you do," her voice thinning to a wire, "if . . . Lance . . . 
If it proved true, that you'd given your little dry heart and care- 
ful body 

And anxious little savings of honor 

For a prize to your lover's murderer: could you walk, eat, sleep, 
While you knew that?" She said, "It is true then. 
I had made up my mind: indeed I long for it. 
Sleep: Oh, you'll see." Fayne drew in breath like one 
Drinking in a desert passion, and said, "You've not 
Enough courage." "Not for anything else," Mary answered; 
"But that"; and began to go back down the dry hill. 
Fayne followed, with eyes like the blue flame of sulphur 
Under the fever of her hair, and lips reddening. 
The moment of joy withered out of her face. 
"I am fighting the whole people, do you think I'll risk: 
For the pleasure of a small soft fool's removal, 
Who'd weep it out to her father or leave a letter. . . . Oh, you: 

it's not true. 

Lance is no murderer, you're innocent as far as that. 
I saw with my eyes your unmourned lover 
Clambering up the ledges in his happy drunkenness, 
All alone, and the shale broke in his hands; 
I saw him pitching down the white moonlight, 
And heard the noise like a melon of his head on rock 



In the clatter of the falling pebbles. Lance came up the sand 

After I screamed." Mary Abbey stood swaying and said, 

"If you knew my heart you'd pity me." Fayne, amazed: "Pity 

For having had Lance?" and said hoarsely, "When did you tell 


That you think you are pregnant?" "Oh, Oh," she stammered, 
"Never. You hate me." "You're good at guessing," Fayne said. 
"What do you want here, money to bribe a doctor? 
We have no money here. Yet it seems I must help you, 
Or worse will come. I know a woman in the city . . . 
When you start east . . . But you must promise never to come 

Into the drawing net of our lives." 


When Mary had gone, 

Fayne went where Lance had been; but only the little hawk 
Stood in the dust, hopeless and watchful, with its own misery 
And a shadow of its own, between the privy and the hen-house 

and the back door. Fayne thought: would Lance 
Be harmed if she should give it the gift? and fetched the axe 

from the wood-block, but forgot to be merciful 
And went upstairs. She washed herself, brushed her bright fleece, 

and came down. 

She found Lance at the fence-corner 
Where the north pasture comes down to drink. He had looped 

his belt around the neck of a yearling colt 
That had a head like a barrel; the little body and long knotted 

legs of nature, but the head enormous, 
Like a barrel-headed beast in a dream. "Oh Lance, what ails it?" 

He stared at her 

And answered, faintly smiling, "I guess a little 
Message from someone." "What?" she said. "Nothing. We don't 

have rattlers 

In the middle of winter." "Is it a rattlesnake bite?" 
"They sleep in the rocks and holes, twisted in bunches, 
They won't strike if you dig them up: but here 



On his lip are the pricks." He unhaltered 

The shuddering colt. "Stumble away, poor thing. 

That was a mean trick, to sung the innocent." 

Fayne said, "Was it a rattlesnake bite?" "Mm: but 

What sent it up?" "This weather," she said, "the vicious sun." 

"Fine hawk's-weather, ah? Did Mary what's-her-name 

Tell you her young sins?" Fayne quivered, closing her eyes, 

And answered at length, "She's sick." "So are we all." 

"/ am not. . . . Lance, you are generous: if you found a stranger 

Starving, and gave her . . . him milk and bread, and came 

Home, and you found someone of yours starving; 

Your father, whom you don't love, but you have to owe him 

A kind of duty . . ." "Why didn't you say brother?" 

She fixed her eyes on his face and sighed and said, "I am speaking 

Of the living. 

. . . And he begged you for the mouthed cup, and what was left 

Of the broken loaf?" He made a sound of impatience 

And turned, but Fayne took his hand, still marked by pressure 

Of the strap that had held the struggling colt: "Would you let 

him starve?" 
"No. What about it?" "That . . . stranger . . . you fed seems 

to be sorry about it. I suppose she was starving. 
I have some angry rinsings of pride in me 
Make begging bitter." "Thafs it," he said. "I could 'a' laughed 

at you 
In the days before I was damned. I'm learning. The mares have 

their seasons but women always." "I will bear anything," 
She answered sighing, her narrow white face opaque with toler- 
ance. "I was not always perfectly patient. 
If you were safe I'd have twisted a knife in her fluty throat. My 

knife is patience." "I know the very 

Place," he said. "Come on, Til answer his note. The very place." 

They went up by the dry 
Gully through the starved and naked pasture; the autumn hunger 

of horses and the patient hooves had left 
Hardly roots of the grass, and the yellow dust was reddened with 

sundown. They saw lean horses drift off 
Along the ridges on the darkening sky, and far on the last knoll 



Three slabs of redwood standing like erect stones, quite black 

against the red streak and slate-color cloud, 
Lonely and strange. Fayne, breathless with labor up the long 

slopes, cried hoarsely, "Where are you going? Oh Lance, 
Not there?" "There," he said. "No. I won't. No. 
What agony in you . . . not here." "On his earth," he answered. 

"It would make us despise ourselves. Oh, do not hate him. 
He did no wrong, he was happy and laughing-natured, and dear 

to us all." "Come on," he said, "or go home. 
Choose." She went slowly away down the hill, and returned and 

said, "I love you and I want . . . not what you think, 
But near enough. And the dead know nothing." "I wouldn't bet 

on it," he said; "the drunk did." "You are wildly wrong," 
She answered, "Oh, horribly," and embracing him strained up 

to his throat 
Her whitened lips. 

She felt the bare crumbled earth, 
The dark home of the dead and serpents, 
Under her back, and gave herself eagerly, 
Desiring that gift that Mary meant to destroy, 
And herself had never wanted before, but now 
To accept what her rival dared not keep, 

Take and be faithful where the other fled, had some bitter value; 
And faith and the world were shaken; Lance might be lost, 
The past might prove unconquerable: no, she could save him: 

but yet 
She'd bind the future. 

This time Lance did not fail. 

She feared his caution and schemed against it, quite needlessly, 
For he had wandered beyond prudent thoughts; 
But when they were going away in the twilight, "Ah vile. 
Vile," he said, "your hawks have worse poison in their hook beaks 
Than any ground-nest of rattlers." She answered, "I am not to 

tell you 

What my hope is." "On top of his bones, dogs in a boneyard." 
She answered languidly and bitterly, "I ought to have let you 
Go to Salinas. I did not know that your mind . . . 
I would have waited for you all the long years. 



I did not know that your mind needed men's judgment 

And the helpless appraisals of the world to help you. You stood 

so strong, 

Separate, clear, free in my eyes: and I did violence to you 
When I kept you." She felt a trembling about him 
And saw that he did not hear but was watching shadows 
Fleet in the air: "Sea gulls. They are gulls, Lance. Look how 


The long sharp silent wings in the fading light 
On the bare hill." "He took it very quietly," he answered; 
"We are all dogs, every one." "Oh," she said, "the world's full 
Of evil and foolishness but it is terribly beautiful. 
If you could see that, Lance." "What? By God they won't, not 


But then comes hell." "I pray you, I pray you, dear, 
Not to begin to think strangely: that's for your father, who often 
Walks his road all staring between hedges 
Of Christs and Satans: but you will rub your mind quiet 
Like the face of a crystal; there is enough to see 
In the dark lovely shoulders of hills, the cows and horses, the 

old gray rocks and the folk around us, 
Without tapping strange dreams. . . * Oh, we'll live well." 

The rain held off; for two hundred and forty days there had been 

no rain 
But one sun-drunken shower. The creek was dry rock and weary 

gray roots; the skin of the mountain crumbled 
Under starved feet; the five carcasses of hawks that Lance had 

hung on the fence-wire dried without odor 
In the north wind and rages of the sun. 

Old Fraser walked under 

the moon along the farm-drive beside them, 
Saying, "Lord if thou art minded to burn the whole earth 
And spat off the dust from thy hands, it is well done, 
The glory and the vengeance: but if anywhere 
Rain falls on hills, remember I beseech thee thy servant's placer 
Or the beasts die in the field." While he was praying 



The moon was dimmed; he felt a flutelike exultance 

Flow up from the V of his ribs to his wrinkled throat: 

He was not abandoned: and looked aloft and saw 

A little many-colored man's-palm-size cloud 

Coasting the moon from the southeast, the storm-side. 

The old man exalted himself; he had power upon God; and 


Repressing his joy for fear it waste the event 
Beforehand, compelled his heart to remember bitterness, 
His two sons lost, one dead, the other in rebellion, 
And poverty and scorn and the starved cattle. "Oh Lord God, 
As in old time thou didst choose one little people for thine out 

of all the earth, 
So now thou hast chosen one man, one old man, foolish and poor: 

but if thy will was made up 
To punish the earth, then heed not my voice but arise and punish. 

It is rank with defilement and infidelity 
And the music of the evil churches." He saw a shining white 

form at the garden-gate, and for a high moment 
Believed that some angel, as unto Abraham ... It was Lance, 
Perfectly naked, and Fayne his wife behind him 
Walking in her white nightdress, who spoke pleadingly, 
But Lance went on. He came with stiff hesitance, 
And seemed not to look down at the latch but opened the gate. 
The old man watched and waited in the tool-house shadow. 
Lance passed the gate and stood in the open dust 
Like a blind marble pillar-stone, the icy moonlight 
Washing his body, pouring great shadows 
Of the heavily moulded muscles on the hairless breast, 
And the ripple of strength on the smooth belly; he stood 
And babbled and called: "Mikey. Oh Mikey. Come home. 
I'll be it to-morrow again. It's getting too dark to play, 
Don't hide any more, buddy, for the owls are out. 
If you'll come in I'll let you have my cornelian, 
And the heron's eggs that I found." Fayne took his hand, 
"Lance, Lance, wake up," and stroked the smooth power of 

his arm, 



Her face caressing his shoulder. He said, "Hurry, they're blam- 
ing me. 

They think you're lost." Fayne said, "I can't bear it, Lance. 
Mikey's in the house. He's come in already." The old man 
Came forward out of the shadow; Fayne heard and stared at him. 
Lance said, "Damned liar. Ma's not . . . mare. 
People ain't made like . . . dirty . . ." and babbled words 
That could not be understood. Fayne said, "Sleep-walking. 
Did he ever before . . . what can I do?" Lance moaned, 
She reached her arm around him and stroked his face 
With the other hand; the old man saw her hair 
Against the wide white breast like a burst of blood 
Deep in the moonlight, then Lance flung her aside 
As white foam flies from the oar, saying still in the dream-drunken 
Sing-song, "Oh no you don't: this is not dog's meat. 
Or you'll have to kill it before you paw it. 
The angels wi' the hooky beaks . . . What in hell," he said 
Sharply, "who's there?" "I, Lance. Oh come to bed, dear. 
You wandered out in your sleep." "No: that spying devil," 
He said, "Hm?" "Your father, your father, Lance. 
He was here when you came." "Oh. . . . Did I talk?" 
"Hardly a word. Nothing, dear." "I sleep better 
Alone," he said, "now." 

The old man looked up at cloud-flecks 

Like algae breeding on clear deep well-water around the moon, 
And looked at Lance, and returned up the drive. Lance said, 

"Do you wear white? Hitch it up on your breast, 
The teat is bare. Why did he turn away without speaking?" "He 

saw you'd wakened." "Black will look fine," 
He answered, "wi* the fiery hair. I want you to marry again, 

you'll have chances." 

The sky in the morning 
Was layered with cloud, and it drove from the southeast; the 

old man kept working his mouth in silent thanksgiving 
For answered prayer; and the wind came down from heaven and 

smoked in the fields. The sky cleared for a time, 
But that was natural; the wind increased. It ran quartering the 

little valley; ashes from the hill 



And mountain dust entered all cracks of the house. It raged on 

the salt pool at the creek sea-mouth 
By the caverned crag that storms have worn spongelike; it reaped 

the heads of the waves on the wide sea, and lay 
Like a quivering steel blade on the necks of the herbless moun- 

Far away northward in San Francisco 
It blew the filth of the street into the faces 
That walked there; one was Mary Abbey's little pale oval 
Lost among thousands. She moved unevenly, fast and lagging, 
And looked with terrified eyes at the gilt street-number 
Scribed on a window; beyond a mean plush-curtained restaurant 
The number stood over a door. She stood choking, 
And read on a brass plate in the doorway: "Dr. Eisendraht, 
Eye, ear, nose, throat"; a wind-scoop of sudden dust 
Blurred the letters and filled her eyes. She went on 
With faint small steps, and at the street-corner 
Tried to stand still, and was jostled. Not wearing gloves 
She spurred blood from the back of her left hand 
With the nails of her right: the pain helped her go back 
And enter the door and find the stairway. She had to sit long, 
Waiting her turn; she was served impersonally 
And dismissed, fainting or able, to the desert wind 
And dust and multitude down the mean street. 

At Sycamore Creek 

Lance's mother was wiping the table oil-cloth 
For the noon meal, the film of the wind's dust, and suddenly 
Fell into a chair; Mrs. Gomez came in with knives and forks on 

the plates and found her, and Fayne 
Came at the cry; they couldn't take her upstairs until Lance came 

in. They helped her slip to the floor, 
And brought a pillow, then Lance came in. Fayne said, "She is 

weak but better, the pain is passing." The old woman 
Mountainous laid on the floor wished to lie still for a time. Lance 

knelt by her side. "All right, Mother. 
As long as you like. Fayne," he said gravely, 
"Will you come to the door a minute?" Fayne went, and outside 

the door said, "What do you want, Lance? You scare her 



Wi' that secret look." "I was not afraid to go in after him, I want 
you to see him. The question is 

Whether my eyes have begun to sing lies to me. 

He came from the orchard walk and went in the shed. 

I know you have courage. A frightful branding. Oh," he sighed, 

"That's the point." She looked at his face and followed him, 

And reeled in the dry fierce wind in front of the house; 

But he leaning his back on the stiff wind, 

So that his shirt moulded the groove between 

The great bands of lean power from the shoulders: "Well. Do 
you see him? 

In the shed door." "No." "It was closed, he opened it. 

You can see that it's open? Now I'll catch him. 

Come." He ran suddenly and leaped the garden gate. 

But Fayne must stop to unlatch it, and when she came 

Lance had gone into the shed and around the motor-truck 

That stood within. Fayne said, "Wind broke the peg 

That held the clasp of the door: see, here's one piece. 

That's why it's open." She heard the roof straining 

Over the imprisoned storm. Lance said, "Did he pass you? 

Ah?" She answered, "We must go away from this place. 

For you, it's haunted. Your mother, whom I think you love, is 
just now 

Lying low between life and death, and you leave her 

To chase the wind, and the foxes of your eyes. Do you love 
him so? 

Or hate him?" He answered, "The fire's burnt through his cheek, 

His back teeth grinned at me through the horrible scar. 

I'll be there soon." "What fire? . . . Are you dreaming punish- 

Oh, that's the vainest craziest falsehood of all. 

Leave that to your poor old father." "We go down 

Into blackness," he stiffly answered, 

"And neither you nor I nor the old man 

Knows what happens there. This was Michael: if I should dream 

I'd dream the skull knocked in, hm? What I saw's 


The cheek burnt through." "I will not let go and lose you," sh* 
answered. "Probably," Lance said, "he'd have lied 

If I could have caught him." 

In the afternoon 

Fayne saw from the window above the kitchen a small gray objeci 

Making a singular dance in the flying dust. 

The little hawk which Lance had shot but not killed 

Was dying; they had dropped it a strip of beef that dried in the 

And given it a dish of water, and not again 

Remembered it, though it stood up grimly and watched 

Whoever passed to the privy. The water was blown 

Out of the dish; no matter, it had never drunk. 

Now it was flapping against the wind, 

Fluttering the natural wing and trailing the broken one, 

Grotesque in action as the blackcock at dawn 

Making his dance of love; but this was of death. 

In the night Fayne said: "That little hawk died. Oh, be quiet now; 

You've shot them out of the sky. . . . Dear, I am to blame 

Like you, and yet I'd be as happy at heart 

As a fed bird that glides through the high air 

If you were not tearing yourself." He made no answer, 

She heard the wind tear at the roof, and said, 

"I love this place. But time has changed, let old Davie 

And your dad farm it now, it is full of memories 

And very fit for old men. You and I 

Will take three horses for all our share of it, 

And travel into the south by that deer-track 

Where the planted foot is on the face of the mountain and the 

lifted foot 

High over the gray face of the sea: four or five days 
Only the eagles will see us, and the coasting ships 
Our fires at evening, and so on southward. But when we get to 

Los Angeles, dear, 

You'll put your great white shoulders to work 
For passage-money, we'll sell the horses and ride 
In a ship south, Mexico's not far enough, 



The Andes are over the ocean like our hills here, 

But high as heaven." "Fancy-work," he mumbled. "Ah. Low as 

Fayne said, "No. Listen: how the air rushes along the keel of the 
roof, and the timbers whining. 

That's beautiful; and the hills around here in the cloud-race moon- 
glimmer, round rocks mossed in their cracks with trees: 

Can't you see them? I can, as if I stood on them, 

And all the coast mountain; and the water-face of the earth, from 
here to Australia, on which thousand-mile storms 

Are only like skimming swallows; and the earth, the great meteor- 
ball of live stone, flying 

Through storms of sunlight as if forever, and the sun that rushes 
away we don't know where, and all 

The fire-maned stars like stallions in a black pasture, each one 
with his stud of plunging 

Planets for mares that he sprays with power; and universe after 
universe beyond them, all shining, all alive: 

Do you think all that needs us? Or any evil we have done 

Makes any difference? We are a part of it, 

And good is better than evil, but I say it like a prayer 

That if you killed him, the world is all shining. It does not 

If you killed him; the world's out of our power, the goodness 
and splendor 

Are things we cannot pervert, although we are part of them 

And love them well." He heavily answered: "Have you finished? 

Don't speak of ... him . . . again." She began to answer, 

Thought, and was silent. 


She fetched a pair of rawhide panniers 
From the harness wall in the barn, remembering that Michael 
Less than two years ago had whittled the frame, and Lance 
Shaped the hairy leather and stitched it with sinew thongs. 
That was the time they three in delight and love 
Rode south by the sea-eagle trails to Point Vicente and Gamboa 
For seven days' hunting, when Fayne shivered with happiness, 



Riding between the most beautiful and strongest man 

For husband, and the gayest in the world for brother, on per* 

Wild hills and by rushing streams. 

She packed the panniers, 

And balanced the weight, mixing her things with Lance's. 
The wind had ceased and no rain had fallen, but the air grown 


Whipped up her courage to believe Lance would go, 
And find life, in new places. His mother was well again; 
And on the farm all things had come to a pause; he was not 

The hay-loft was emptying fast; but Lance could not make it 

rain by staying! 

While she packed the panniers 

A little agony was acting under the open window, between the 
parched lips of the creek. 

One of those white-crowned sparrows that make sweet voices in 
the spring evenings in the orchard 

Was caught by a shrike and enduring death, not the bright sur- 
gical mercy of hawks, but slow and strangling. 

Its little screams quivered among the gray stones and flew in the 
window; Fayne sighed without noticing them, 

And packed the panniers. 

When Lance came up at evening she 
showed him what she had done: "We'll go to-morrow." 

He said he'd not leave the place in trouble, "Even dogs are faith- 
ful. After the first good rain I'll go." 

The reasons she made only angered him. 

Late in January 

Fell rain mingled with hail, and snow in the nights. Three or four 
calves died in a night, then Lance 

Had occupation with what survived; and the north slopes of 
hills were sleeted with magic splendor 

That did not melt. 

Fayne was drying dishes while Mrs. Gomez 
washed them; she dropped a cup 



With the dazzle of the white hill in her eyes when the sun came 


Then Lance's mother filled up the door and said, 
"That Mary Abbey is here." Fayne answered clearly, 
"I broke a cup. She is in Idaho I think.'* 

The old woman: "She's thinner. Oh Fayne, there were only seven 
Left of the dozen"; she gasped, remembering Michael: six were 

"She's got something to tell you." Fayne said, "Being out of our 


Has she flown back? Where's Lance?" and passed the old woman 
As one moves a door to pass through a doorway, 
But found no one; neither in the front rooms 
Nor on the garden path when she opened the house-door. 
Then she returned to Lance's mother and asked, 
"Where has she gone? Where was she?" but found no light in 

the answers, 

Only that Mary looked waxy as a little candle, 
Her heart must be terribly weak, she looked all blue by the 

And must have come a wet way. 

Fayne felt the jealous 

Devil fingering her throat again, tightening her breath, 
And hasted and found Lance; but he was alone; 
In the lower creek-bed, lopping all the twigs from the willows, 

making a load, to be chopped fine 
And mixed with little portions of hay. She saw him reaching up 

the dwarf stems, as tall as the trees, 
The sky-cold knife, the purple twigs at his feet, and said, "Have 

you seen Mary Abbey?" "What?" "Mary Abbey." 
"You said she'd gone." "Well, she did go: she was up at the house 

just now"; and knowing her own bitter absurdity 
Fayne trembled, saying, "Was she here?" He looked into the 

hollow creek-bed behind him; what was Fayne seeing 
To make her tremble? "No," he said. Fayne, trembling with 

anger: "I'll tell you what she went east for: she was pregnant. 
She stopped in San Francisco to be fixed up." "That's bad," he 

said; "poor child"; 



He slashed the twigs. Fayne tortured her hands together until 

the pain in the knuckles made her able 
To smell the wounds of the willows and say steadily, "What 

will you do, 
Now she's come back?" "Oh," he answered. She stood waiting; 

he slashed the twigs and dropped them, saying, "Let her 

stay there. 
I've been thinking, Fayne. I've been able to think, now the heat's 

broken. We have no outlet for our bad feelings. 
There was a war but I was too young: they used to have little 

wars all the time and that saved them, 
In our time we have to keep it locked up inside and are full of 

spite: and misery: or blindly in a flash: 
Oh," he said stilly; "rage 
Like a beast and kill the one you love best. Because our blood 

grows fierce in the dark and there's no course for it. 
I dream of killing all the mouths on the coast, I dream and dream." 

She said, "Will you go to-morrow?" 
"No. When the grass grows up. I'm bound to save what I can for 

the old people, but knives and axes 
Are a temptation. Two inches of grass." She stood gazing; he 

saw the blue of her defenseless eyes 
Glance at his knife-hand. "Don't be a fool," he said, "I can be 

quiet forever. Have you seen the old man 
When he looks at me? I think he knows." "That is impossible," 

Fayne answered. "Why?" "For his mind is like 
A hanging rock; he'd go mad when you crossed his eyes. But if 

he learned it after you'd gone away 
He could absorb it, like the other dreadful dreams that he eats." 

He answered, "Davis has known for weeks. 
I can tell that." "We have friends," she said; "faithful ones." 

"Did you say that poor child 
Was . . . what did you say?" Fayne hardened and answered, 

"Your mother saw her." 
"I mean ... no matter," he said. 

In the night she lay 

Unable to sleep; she heard the coyotes howl 
And shriek on the white hill, and the dogs reply. 



Omens and wraiths waked in her night-weakened nerves, 

Reminders of the vague time when wolves were terrible 

To one's ancestors; and through all the staring-gaps of the night 

She kept thinking or dreaming of Mary Abbey, 

Who had come to the house and then lacked courage to stay, 

and must no doubt 
Be suffering something. 

But Lance to-night slept quietly; he'd enjoyed the good fortune 
Of useful and active labor outdoors, in the cold 
Beautiful weather. He was so concentrated 
On the one spot of anguish 

That nothing else in the world was real to him. The Abbey girl 
Was never real to him; not even while . . . Fayne heard her 

own teeth 

Chipping each other in the angry darkness . . . 
Nor whether she'd been in trouble. 

The little wolves on the hill 
Lifted their tumult into a tower of wailing; Fayne saw clearly 

in her mind the little muzzles 
Lifted straight up, against the starlit gray shoal of snow, and the 

yellow-gray clamor shot up the night 
Like a church-spire; it faded and floated away, the crackling 

stars remained. "They smell," Fayne thought, 
"The dead calves, and no doubt have found them. They've 


And now they sing. . . . Nothing is real to Lance but his wound; 
But when we get away from this luckless place, 
Which yet I love, 

Then gradually the glory of the outer world 
Will become real; when he begins to perceive the rushing and 

shining storm and fragrance of things, 
Then he'll be well." 

A drift of thin rain fell in the morning; 
The white vanished from the hill. The third day, 
Fayne, going to spy for fear Mary might come 
Where Lance was working, found old Davis in the driveway 
Talking to a tall thin man on a red horse; 
A Spanish man whom Fayne had not seen before, 



But felt that she'd seen the horse. She eyed them and said, 
"What does he want?" Davis, turning his back on the stranger, 
Covertly touched his forehead and drooped an eyelid. 
"He works at Abbey's. This is the famous Onorio Vasquez, 
The cowboy that sees the visions. He wants to tell you: you can 

send him off if you want to. Have you heard 
About Abbey's girl?" "What?" Fayne asked, her eyes narrowed, 

lips thinned. "He says she put herself out. 
The young they ain't got consideration for nobody." "What do 

you mean?" "Jumped off a pier I believe. 
A telegram came in their mail yesterday. Her dad's gone up to 

San Francisco to view the body. 
So his hired man can roam." Payne's mouth jerked, her eyes 

widened. "I cannot understand what you mean, 
Davie," she said; but gazed at the Spanish-Indian, the hollow 

brown eyes 
With a bluish glaze across them, in the shadow of his hat, in his 

bony face. "Jumped off a pier," 
Davis answered with patient enjoyment; "it seems she kept her 

address in her hand-bag on account of traveling, 
So they telegraphed." "Did you say that she died?" He nodded, 

"Mmhm: wa'n't made for a fish, didn't have gills. 
The young ain't got consideration for things like that." "Mary!" 

Fayne said, her hand at her throat. 
She drew deep breath, and sharply lifting her face toward the 

silent horseman: "What are you waiting for, 
Your news is told? " He, in better English than one expected, 
In the soft voice of his race: "You are very sorry: 
Excuse me, please. I only saw her a little and she went away 
After I came to work; she was beautiful with patient eyes but 

I think it is often good to die young. 
I often wish." "She came to this house," Fayne said, "two days 

ago: how could she ... in the city? She was here 
The day before yesterday." "No, that was the day," he answered, 

"she died." Fayne stared at him 
Without speaking; he was half dazzled by the wide blue of her 

eyes below the fire-cloud of hair, 
He looked at the brown earth. "What time did she ... 



What time?" Fayne asked. "Don't know." She said slowly, 

"I think it is ... strange." She hardened. "Nothing. Have you 


To tell us any other thing?" "Yes," he said proudly, 
"I ride on the hill and see a vision over this house. You have 

heard of Onorio 
Vasquez? That is my name." Old Davis made a derisive noise 

in his throat; Fayne, thinking "Visions? 
Apparently we too . . ." said quietly, "I never heard of you." 

He, saddened: "It does not matter." But Davis, the grizzled 
Thatch of his lip moving to make a smile: 
"Now that's too bad: for the man's famous. He's got six brothers 
And every one of them knows him, every Vasquez on the coast. 
If they can't steal meat nor borrow a string of peppers they listen 

to brother Onorio 

Telling his dreams all through a winter night; 
They don't need nothing." She answered, "If you have nothing 

to do here, 

Go and help Lance." And to Vasquez: "Tell me what it is 
You have to say." "You know a place in the south call' Laurel 

Spring? No?" he said. "Near Point Vicente. 
I never been: my brother Vidal has been. He told me a rock and 

an old laurel tree 
Is cut by the wind into the shape of the rock, and the spring runs 

down. He made a beautiful place 

The way he told; we are much Indian, we love such places." 
Fayne answered, "I am busy just now." He: "Excuse me, please. 
I ride on the hill and every day 
Watch the old war in the sky over this house; 
I hurt my heart with my eyes. Sometimes a naked man 
Fighting an eagle, but a rattlesnake bitten him; 
Sometimes a lion fighting a tide of dogs; 
But sometimes terrible armies out of the east and west, and the 

hacking swords." Fayne gazed at him 
And said, "Is that all? 

I have just heard that my best friend has died: 
I cannot think of these things." He said "The two armies 
Destroyed each other, except one man alone 



Walking among the bodies of horses and men 

That blocked the sky; then I heard someone say, 

'Let him lie down with the others.' Someone say, 'No. 

At Laurel Spring he will wash off the blood, 

And be cured of his wound.' I cannot live 

Until I tell you." "Is it on the way 

Into the south?" Fayne said. "Yes: on the trail. 

My brother Vidal . . ." "I believe many lies 

Are told about us," she said. "Have you heard talk 

About this house?" He picked at the hair rope of the halter 

On the horn of the saddle. She said, "I can guess 

What you have heard. . . . May I call you Onorio? 

Because it was kind of you to come down; and thank you 

For telling me about your vision." She went nearer to him, 

To reach his eyes under the eaves of his hat. 

"Do you know Leo Ramirez?" "Him? Yes." "Have you talked 

to him? 

He could tell you about it. He and I alone 
Saw my husband's brother climb on the cliff and fall. 
Ask him and he will tell you the truth. The others lie: 
To amuse idleness, I guess. If they had your great power 
And saw the spirits of the air, they'd never do so. 
But would you think the spirits of the dead?" Her face 
Flashed at him, soft and hard at once, like a wet stone. 
"Nothing," she said. "This present world is enough 
For all our little strength. Good-bye, Onorio. If you hear any- 

Come down and tell me ... at Abbeys' or anywhere . . . 
For nobody comes down to see us any more, 
On account of those wicked . . . lies . . ." While she spoke 
A sob broke through and she hid her face. He from above 
Looked down at her bent head and the wild color 
And foam of her hair; he reached and touched her hair 
As if it were a holy thing. Fayne, in a moment 
Quelling her tears: "I'll remember 
About the way south, that fountain. I am very unhappy 
For my lost friend." She turned hastily away 
And left him, and found Lance. 



She sobbed, "Mary Abbey 

Will never come back. I .... I liked her well enough 
If she had not . . . Oh Lance." He was flaying the leather from 

a white and red calf, kneeling to work. 
He rested his red-stained hands on the carcass and looked up with 

vague eyes. Fayne remembered, "At Laurel Spring 
He'll wash the blood . . ." "Hm?" he said, "what?" "Mary . . . 

What am I doing," Fayne thought, "I oughtn't to tell him 
While his mind is like this"; and clearing her face if she could, 

making a smile, said carefully, "What 
Do you want the skin for?" "I've nothing to do," he said, "for 

the time. Rawhide has uses. I ground my knife 
After all the willows were cut. Occupation." "A sort of bloody 

one," Fayne said carefully. "Well," he said, 
And tugged at the skin with his left hand, making small cuts with 

the knife against the cling of the flesh. 
She stood and watched, and furtively wiped her eyes. He looked 

up again: "No fat to scrape off." He dipped 
The knife in the shrunken flesh between ribs. "Amazing," he 

said, "how the beasts resemble us, bone for bone, 
And guts and heart. What did you say about Mary Abbey?" 

"No," she answered, "nothing. I was too unkind. 
I think how lonely she was." "Oh. You mean Mary Abbey. I 

wish to God . . ." 

He stopped speaking and tugged the skin, making small cuts 
At the tearing-place. Fayne said, "Did you ever hear 
Of Laurel Spring, down the coast?" She saw his wide shoulders 
Suddenly stiffen, a shadow shot over in the air 
And Lance's white-blue eyes rolled after the bird, 
A big black one, with bent-up wing-tips, a flesh-color head 
That hung and peered. He sighed and pulled at the skin, slicing 

the fiber. 
Fayne said, "A vulture. They're living high now." "Mm," he 

said, "they know: they're always stooping over my head. 
I thought it was something else." "You've shot them out of the 

sky," she answered, "there are no hawks." "Aren't there!" 
He said, and hushed. 



After a time Fayne left him, and looked 

When she came to the ridge of the hill. She saw the brown breast 

of earth without any grass, and the lean brown buckeye 
Thicket that had no leaves but an agony of stems, and Lance 
Furiously stabbing the flayed death with his knife, again and 

again, and heard his fist hammer 
On the basket-work of the ribs in the plunges of the hiltless 

blade. She returned; when he saw her he was suddenly still. 
She said, "Whom were you thinking of?" He gazed in silence 

as if he thought that he ought to remember her 
But could not. "Who was being stabbed ... in your mind, 

Lance?" "Nobody. We are all dogs. Let me amuse myself." 
"Me?" she said steadily. "No." She sighed and said, "I was going 

to tell you ... I will. Mary Abbey's dead." 
She watched his blood-flecked face and his eyes, but they stood 

still. "Oh," he said coldly. "What did she die of?" 
"Unhappiness. She drowned herself." "Too bad." He said no 

more, and Fayne stared and said: "When your mother 

saw her 
That day, she was not real but a pleading spirit; she was dying 

in the north. We never pitied her." 
"Is she frightened?" he said. "Who? Your mother? I have not 

told her." "Don't then." 


He stood up slowly, 

And wiped the knife on the hair side of the skin; 
He looked up the darkening wind and said, "It is going to rain." 
Fayne said, "Then will you go?" seeing his fixed face 
Against the lit cloud, so that the sanguine flecks 
And smear under the cheek-bone were not apparent, 
Only the ridge of the face, the unrounded chin 
Higher than her eyes. He turned in silence and passed 
Heavily over the grassless earth, but soon 
Fayne had to run to keep up. Near the house 
They came to Davis pouring water into the hand-pump 
Of the old well to prime it; who said, "The water's 



Quit in the pipes; the crick's not dry up yonder, 

I guess a rat in the intake . . ." Lance answered hoarsely, 

"Fish it out then. Where's the old man?" Fayne said, 

"What do you want, Lance?" "The old man." Old Davis gaped 

At his changed face; Fayne saw the water clamber 

Up the sides of the can in the shaking hand 

In little tongues that broke and ran over, "Hey, hey," 

Davie stammered, "y' got to consider," but Lance touched him 

With only the finger-tips, then the man raised 

One arm and pointed northwestward, slant up the hill. 

Lance turned and ran; Fayne followed him, but could not now 

Keep up, old Davis hobbled panting behind them; 

At lengthening intervals the little ridiculous chase 

Crossed over the creek-bed under sycamore trees, 

Past buckeye clumps, and slant up the bare hill 

Below the broad moving sky. 

Tall spikes of a tough weed 
With leather leaves grew at a place on the hill; 
A few staring-flanked cows tongued the gray leaves 
But would not crop them, and broke the stalks. Old Fraser stood 
Against a fence-post and watched; he saw the herd 
A red and white stippling far down the slope, and the serpent- 
winding creek-bed, the salt pool of its end 
Behind the sand-bar, and the sandstone fang in the mouth of the 

valley, from which the shore hills over sky and water 
Went up each way like the wings of a sombre archangel. Lance 

came from behind 
And said, "I have run my course. I cannot go on forever." The 

old man, broken out of his revery, 
Looked blindly at the wide chest, red hands and stained face, as 

if a pillar of mist had come up and stood 
Threatening above him. "You," he said harshly, "what do you 

want?" "Judgment. I cannot go on alone," 
And in a boy's voice, "Oh, judgment. I have done . . . 
I need, I need." The old man's brown apelike eyes got him clear 

at length, and became after their manner 
A force of thrusting, like a scorched bar of fire-hardened wood. 

"Go home," he said, "drunkard. 



If there is no work in the field for your . . . hands . . what 

blood is that?" "My brother's," Lance said. Fayne came too 

And sobbed for breath, in her throat a whining, and said, "He 

was skinning a calf down there, he was . . ." Lance passed 
Between them and leaned on the fence-wire with his hands to- 
gether and dragged the palms of his hands to the right and 

So that the barbs of the wire clicked on the bones of his hands 

through the torn flesh. "And mine," he said. 
Fayne heard the tough noise of tearing, and felt in her own 

entrails through the groin upward an answering anguish. 
Lance turned, hissing with pain, and babbled: "For no reason on 

I was angry without a cause and struck him with iron and killed 

him. The beast in me 
That wants destruction. I mean Michael you know, Michael I 

mean." Old Fraser staggered, saying quietly, 
"Has he had drink?" Fayne said, "He . . ." she looked up at 

Lance's beautiful head and stained gray face, 
But the lower zone of her vision could not avoid his hands, and 

thick blood falling from the shut knuckles: 
Where was that readiness of mind, her thoughts were wailing 

away on the wind like kildeer, which flitter singly, 
Crying all through the white lofts of the moonlight sky, and 

you never see them. "Am I going to tip over 
For blood, like Mary?" She stammered: "He . . . 
Ah God. I'll tell you . . ." Lance said, "This is mine. I have 

come. Keep that woman away from me until I speak. 
She fooled me into concealment, time and again, Oh cunningly. 

I have fallen through flight after flight of evil 
And harmed many." Fayne gathered her mind and said, 
"This is it. This is the thing. He made love 
With a girl and she has just died: now he hates me and he hopes 
To take all the sins of the world onto his shoulders, to punish 

himself. It is all like a mad saint. 
You trained him to it. But I saw Michael . . ," Lance said, "I 

remember an iron bolt for my shipwreck 



Stood in my hand": he opened the ripped palm and the red 

streamed: "I struck." "Climb," Fayne said, 
"Up the awful white moon on the cliff and fall, I saw him. It is 

Mary Abbey 
Has killed herself." Lance said, "How your power's faded. You'll 


Fool me or the world again. I would not die 
Until I had told." 

Davis came up, and saw 

Lance head and shoulders against the sky like a dead tree 
On which no bird will nest; the others at his base 
On the brown hill, Fayne saying "Oh weak as water, 
How will this help you bear it?" Davis, choked 
With haste on the hill: "Ah. Ah. What's he been doing?" Lance 


His two hands toward his father, suppliant, but clenched 
To save the blood. "What shall I do?" The old man 
Stepped backward without an answer. Fayne said, "Because 
The Abbey girl drowned herself, Lance thinks his finger 
Helped push her down; but she was sick in her dreams 
And might 'a' done it for anyone: the rest's invention 
To punish himself. I am the one to hate him 
Meddling with that sick child, but I love him 
And will not lose." Davis, eyeing certain flakes 
And scraps on the red thorns of the wire, sighed "Ah 
That was a ghastly thing," and stood swaying, 
Yellow and withered. Old Fraser's burnt wandering eyes 
Fixed on him, the old man said: "Which is the liar? 
Did Lance do it?" Lance opened his palms toward him 
As if they would take and hold, saying "Tell the truth, 
I will not bear to live in the dark any more." 
Davis groaned, "Ay. It's true I guess." Fayne: "Ah, Ah, coward. 
Because he held his hands at you." She said to old Fraser: 
"People hate you and your enemies made this story 
Because you still had a son after Michael died. 
This is what they have whispered so long, and Lance has heard it 
And uses it to stab himself." Lance said, "It is horrible 
To hear the lies from her mouth like bees from a hive 



Hot in the sun. I was Michael's death; 

And I cannot bear it in silence. Only I pray you all to keep it 

Hidden from my mother; you can do that 

With a little care, with a little care, she cannot live long. 

Make a story to save her." Old Fraser, suddenly 

Covering his face: "Me . . . has anyone cared a little to save 

Lest I live to the bitterness?" He passed among them 

With tottering steps, tasting the way with his hands, 

And down the hill toward home. Lance stood and muttered, 

"What did he say, did he answer me? 

He's honest, I bank on that." 

A short way down 

The old man stumbled and nearly falling stood still a moment; 
Then turned his course up the hill and seemed to make haste 
With short weak steps. Lance watched him and followed soon, 
But turned fiercely on old Da vie: "Back to work. Off. 
That rat in the intake." And to Fayne: "How death 
Makes even a rat powerful, they swell like clouds. 
Leave me, will you." She answered, "I will never leave you. 
But you, Davie, go home." "Hm?'' Lance said, "never? You take 

your time. 

Tie up my hands then; I think the seepage dulls me 
More than the hurt helps. Here's a handkerchief: 
Your dress is old." She tore it, and while she bandaged him 
They stood, the old man trotted on. Lance dully wondered: 
"Why did I come to him; because he believes in God? 
What the hell good is that? Hm? Oh, to put it 
Out of its misery." "I know you have been in torture," Fayne 

"And now you have done unwisely but yet we'll live: not here, 

but certainly, fully 

And freely again. You might have spared that old man. 
Our joined lives are not weak enough to have gone down 
In one bad night. . . . Oh Lance," she prayed suddenly, "have 

mercy on me. While you tear and destroy yourself 
It is me that you tear." 

He went on, she followed. On the high 

knoll ahead 



Stood the bleak name-posts of those three burials, one new and 

two old, erect against the sinking gray sky, 
And seemed to rise higher as the clouds behind went down. The 

old man was struggling across a gully this side. 
Fayne breathlessly said, "Lance, Lance, can you hear me? He is 

going up to Michael's grave, where his wild mind, that 

Not spared, is to find some kind of fall, some kind of decision. 

Do you remember, dear, that you took me 
To Michael's grave a while back? You were so angry. 
But that was the break of our bitter frost. 
And maybe there, or maybe afterwards at home in bed: some- 
time you put new life in my body. 

Do you remember that I begged you for it? I could not bear 
That that sick child and not I ... 
Through me you go on, the other threw you away. Remember, 

whatever destroying answer 
Is to gore us now, 
A spark of your life is safe and warm in my body and will find 

the future. There is some duty in the parcel 
With being a father; I think some joys too. But not to destroy 


Not now I think." "Sing to yourself," Lance answered. 
"I am sorry if she died sadly, I've worse to think of." 

Fayne saw old Fraser, crooked and black against the light cloud, 

Totter up the hilltop and drop himself down 

By the new name-post, but he stood up again 

Before Lance and Fayne came. He screamed, "Keep off," 

And picked up clods of the herbless earth and threw them, 

But Lance went up without noticing. "What must I do?" 

He prayed, "I cannot live as I am." Old Fraser 

Suddenly kneeling covered his face and wept, 

And said, "What has God done? I had two sons and loved them 
too much, 

And he is jealous. Oh Lance, was there no silence in the stream- 
ing world 

To cover your mouth with, forever against me? 



I am not. Not hangman. Tell your story 

Where it belongs. Give yourself up. 

Must I take you?" "That's what I thought of at the very first, 

But have been deluded awhile," Lance answered quietly, 

And turned to go down. Fayne cried, "What good is this? Oh, 
but how often, 

Father, you have spoken of the godless world: is that what Lance 
is to go to for help and punishment? 

When they came to put a serum into your cows, what did you 
say? You would not trust an old cow to them, 

Will you trust Lance? If he were as red as Cain . . . when 
hunters come and break down your fences here 

Do we run to the law? Must we run to it 

For a dearer cause? What justice or what help or what under- 
standing? I told him to give his heart 

To the wild hawks to eat rather than to men." Lance gripped her 
elbow with the tips of his fingers, 

And pointing at the empty air past the old man: "See, he looks 
pleased wi' me, 

And happy again." She looked first at Lance, then at the vacant 
air. "How could he help but forgive you," 

She answered, "he knows it was not hatred but madness. 

Why must you punish yourself, you loved each other"; and to 
the old man: "Is God's hand lamed? Tell Lance 

To lean on your God; what can man do for him? I cannot re- 
member," she said trembling, "how Cain ended. 

There were no prisons I am sure?" Lance said, "He looks well. 

No scar at all and his eyes laughing. Ah, Ah, look: 

He waved his hand at his grave and laughed. I'll tell you, though, 

He's not real. Don't mistake him. It makes me glad, 

But it's bright nothing. Now it's gone: see?" The old man, sud- 

Erect and shaking against the gray cloud: "I will have no part in 
this matter. 

It is written that sevenfold vengeance on the slayer of Cain. Go. 
Go. To be a fugitive and be a vagabond, 

And tramp the earth hard that has opened her mouth for thy 
brother's blood. No wonder the sweet rain could not fall. 



I say flee quickly, before the dogs . . . should I give 

My son to be judged by dogs?" Fayne said, "Do you hear him, 

Lance, he has answered you. We must go away south, 
As I've been praying." Lance said, "It has all been useless and 

blind. I am back in hell." He sighed and went down 
The way Fayne led, old Fraser behind them crying: 
"If you had listened in the days before: now it is night, 
And who shall hear? but the sharp feet of pursuers: yet look 

how Christ's blood 

Flows like a fiery comet through heaven and would rain sweet- 
The fields refuse." 

Fayne said, "I am going to tell your mother 
That you've got work as foreman on a farm in the south, 
A dairy I'll say, near Paso Robles. You've got to go and earn 


Because we're to have a baby. But next summer 
She'll see us again: we'll come visiting: do you understand? 
You must not let her think that you're going for good; 
She couldn't bear that perhaps; but cheerfully say good-bye, 
You'll save the sorrow, that's your wish, perhaps even 
The ticking of her tired heart. Can you do it, Lance? 
No," she said sadly when she looked at his face. 
"I'll say that you've gone ahead. You had to go suddenly 
To get the job." "By God," he said, "I can do my own lying, 
And smooth a face of my own, come on and watch me. 
It is my mother." "Your hands, Lance." He moaned impatiently 
"How will you say they were hurt?" He moaned, "Hobbled, 


Never an inch. That's the first rule in hell, 
Never to step one inch until it is planned. 
... In the feed-cutter." Fayne said "I daren't. Yes, at the end. 
I'll find clean cloth to bandage them. You must wash. 
Get Davie to help you ready the horses. 
The pack is ready, only we must put food in it." 
He answered, "I am sick of life. I have beaten at the last door 
And found a fool." 




Beyond Abbey's place 

The trail began to wind up to the streaming cloud. 
Fayne looked back: Abbey's was hidden, the awful memoried 


Crouched indistinguishable. Lance said fiercely, 
44 What do you see?" "Nothing." Fayne led the packhorse 
To save torture of his hands; Lance rode behind. 
He stopped on the rounding of a high fold of the hillside 
And turned himself in the saddle, with his finger-tips 
On the withers and on the croup. Fayne stopped. "Did you see," 

Lance said, 

The look of the man that watched us by Abbey's fence?" 
"What, Lance? I am quite sure you are wrong: there has been 

no one 

Since we left home." "Then I was mistaken. 
... I see nobody following. If they come after me 
I'll kill them; I am not going to be interfered with now. 
My trouble's my own affair. I'd cut my heart out 
To make him live: that's out of the question. I have beaten like 

a blind bird at every window of the world. 
No rational exit. No cure. Nothing. Go on. No," he said, "wait. 
You know it's our last chance to see home. There are our hills 

but the valley's hidden. There's Fraser's Point, 
Do you see? The small jag: like a beak, ah? And," he said slowly, 

"the curve 

On this side, glimmering along . . . that cliff you know. 
Looks like flat shore." "Dear," she said faintly, "it would be better 

not to look back. We're going far. Come." 
"Worn flat I suppose by my thoughts, walking around, up and 

down, walking around. Don't talk about it. 
I can even pick out the hill where we stood this morning, that 

posted hill. I'm a little run down in health, 
Perhaps these haggles in my hands will poison. Go on: I've seen 


Around the corner of the hill, where wet earth hushed 
The stony hooves, "Did you tell me," Lance said, 



"That my mother saw Mary . . . what did you tell me 

When she died?" Fayne felt a tired hope of joy: 

He was thinking of someone else than Michael at least. 

"Your mother saw her the day she died; probably the hour 

And very moment. She thought that she asked for me, 

But when I came, the presence had disappeared." 

"What about it?" he said, "there's no sense in it." "No. 

That's the manner of ... spirits. She had a clear sweet nature, 

Candid and loving." Lance answered, "I am much troubled 

About leaving my mother. The skin looked bluish again 

Around her nostrils; we ought not to have left her." Fayne heard 

An angry repeated crying high up in the air; 

She was careful not to look up, but stealthily 

Looked back at Lance; and said, "She was happy, dear, 

When I told her about the baby; she was full of plans. 

And we'll write often." He was glaring up at the sky, 

His face menacing and pale. Fayne said, "Lance?" 

And when he did not answer, herself looked up and watched a 

great soaring bird, 

White-tailed, white-headed, a bald eagle, wide over the moun- 
tain and shore scribing his arc of flight, 
Tormented by a red-tail hawk that sailed above. The hawk dived, 

screaming, and seemed to strike, 
The eagle dipped a wing with reluctant dignity 
And sailed his course. "Oh, you can't kill them all," 
Fayne said, "from here to Mexico." "I don't want to. 
They win, damn them." 

They climbed at length to the cloudy 

Where the high trail went south; they rode through the clouds 

and in windy clearings 
Would see enormous declivities tilting from the hooves of the 

horses down wells of vapor to the sudden shore's 
Thin white surf on a rock like a grain of sand. Two or three times 
Fayne heard Lance stop; she sat in the cloud and waited until he 

came. When the ridge and the trail widened 
They rode abreast; then she saw that he'd stripped 
The bandage from his right hand, but one thin layer 



The wound gaped through. "Oh Lance, it is all exposed: was it 

too tight?" "Too stiff." "I must fix it. 
Have you thrown the linen away?" He said with a shamed face, 

"Let's be friends, Fayne. I feel somebody 
Behind us; and I can tell you I won't be caught. I have my gun: 

I can't manage the trigger 
Wi' that muff on my hand." "You are right," she answered with 

a flash of joyful fear; "but it is certain 
That no one's following. Your wrist looks swollen." "No," he 

said; "but it is strange and pleasant to have left the place 
Along with you. Your hair is like a fire in the cloud." She an- 
swered, "We have changed worlds." "Wait for me," 
He said, and turned and went back. Hearing him speak, but not 

able to see him through the blind vapor, 
She struggled in a kind of nightmare to turn the packhorse 
To go back to him; she dropped the hair rope and struck 
Her mount with fists and heels. As it leaped, Lance 
Grew out of the fog, towering on his little horse. 
"What was it? What did you see?" "Ah, nobody. 
I could V sworn." 

He was always listening as they went on, 
And looking back, if the steam of the world cleared 
Over the draft from a gorge. Fayne suddenly stopped 
In the blind coil and drizzle of the cloud. "Are you there, Lance? 
Are you all right?" "Hm? Yes," he answered, "I know it. 
But I never can see him." Fayne said quietly, "Perhaps he is. 
As when your mother saw Mary Abbey. But they're not real, 
As you and I are, and the hard mountains and the horses and the 

wet cloud. He is not an enemy; we never 
A moment hated him, but always loved and were sorry. But he 

is only an echo of our own troubled 
And loving thoughts." Lance laughed like the sudden bark of a 

dog: "Eavesdroppers 
Have got to take what they get. But what's real, ah? How do you 

know?" "I never thought of it," she answered, 
"But I can tell you. What eyes, ears, fingers, can feel; and come 

again the next day 



And feel again: that's real. You may see visions but you cannot 
touch them; but if you could touch them too, 

Yet they don't last. . . . Did you ever hear of a place called 
Laurel Spring?" "No. Any water would do. 

It's growing toward night." "I was thinking about a man named 
Vasquez," she answered, 

"That sees visions." 

The trail had come lower, 

They rode in dropping skeins of the cloud, a slight cattle-track 

On a steeple-roof slope so sheer and high 

That every stone the hooves kicked out rolled down 

Into deep water; but had dwindled from sight down the pitch of 

The first quarter of its fall. The sea-west heaven 

Opened an eye, whence the last of the sun 

Flamed, like a fire fallen into a well 

Flashing before it is drowned, that makes the black disk of water 

As bright as blood; and the wild angry light streams from the 
bottom up the stained wall 

And washes with color every cold stone: so from the floor of the 
world a fountain and flood of roses 

Flew up to the height, those two riders might have seen 

Their own blue shadows on the red cloud above them; 

Then the eye of the west closed. Color was there 

But no radiance, here the gray evening gathered. 

Lance's mount suddenly stumbled; Fayne cried out; 

And they rode on. Lance said, "Now he's ahead of us; 

The horse shied when he passed; I couldn't see him. 

It's trembling still." Fayne said, "No wonder. If it had fallen 

It would roll from here to the sea; oh, keep your feet 

Light in the stirrups. Your bay's getting too old, Lance. 

To-morrow it must take the pack; you'll ride the pinto." 

"To-morrow!" he said. Fayne turned and looked and said noth- 
ing, feeling intolerable sadness 

Grow over her mind like the gray darkness covering the world; 
for a moment it seemed they were not escaping 

But only dragging the trap; and the twilight darkened. There 
was no stopping here; 



They rode like flies upon the face of a wall; 

The tired horses must stick if they could, and go in darkness 

Until some flat place found. Fayne was tired too, 

And shook in the cold. "Lance, Lance, ride carefully. 

If you should fall I'll follow. I will not live 

Without you." He laughed, "Ha!" like the bark of a dog. 

"No danger here, we are going in the perfect owl's eye. 

Michael has gone ahead to make ready for us. 

You know: a camp." "What?" she said. "You know: a camp. 

We'll come to it." "Oh Lance, ride carefully." A kind of shoulder 

on the wall 

Showed in the dark, and a little noise 
That Fayne thought was the sea. Lance called behind her, 
"Hello. Are you there?" She said, "Here, Lance." "Uhk-hm. 
The other fellow; not you." She thought "I can't bear it," 
And said quietly, "It's water my horse has found. 
It must be a little creek; I can hear it falling." 
They stopped and drank under the whispering bushes, 
And found no place to lie down. There were no stars, 
But three ships' lights crept on the cavernous depth 
And made a constellation in the under-world; 
Lance said, "Damn you, go on." Fayne understood 
By the useless curse how his mind stared. The horses 
Paced on with heads down, and around the fold of the hill 
Stopped of themselves. Here in a shallow gully 
There seemed to be room to camp, between the sharp slope 
And a comb of bushes. 

Fayne saw a glimmer move in the dark 
And sobbed to restrain a cry; it was Lance's hand 
From which he had slipped the bandage; the wound and its wet 

Shone phosphorescent: the right hand: the hand that had done it. 

Or can pain shine? In a moment Fayne thought more quietly: 
"Is it infected, could infection shine in the dark like decaying 

wood?" He was feeling the earth for sticks 
To start a fire: she dipped in the pannier and found the matches. 

In the red firelight she examined his hand: 



Feverish, a little; but less than his lips and eyes: Oh, when would 
the strain end? "Let's make a big fire, 

This our first night of freedom, and keep ghosts away." She took 
the short-handled axe from the pannier side 

And broke dead wood with it. "We'll make a bright eye up here 
for the night, in the high blackness, for the hollow night, 

For the ships to wonder what star . . . I'll tell you what star, 

You streaming ships: the camp-fire of Lance and Fayne is the 
star; we are not beaten, we are going to live. 

We have come out of the world and are free, more hawk than 
human, we've given our hearts to the hawks to keep 

In the high air." Lance laughed, "Ha! Owls you mean. Wel- 
come." He kept his hands 

From the fire-heat, and would take no food. 


The famished horses 

Moved in the dark; Lance ground his teeth in sick sleep; 
Wind whispered; the ocean moaned; that tinkling water 
Fell down the rock. Fayne lay and was cold; she wondered 
Whether it was Laurel Spring perhaps; then perfectly knowing 
That all the leaves were oak, she was compelled 
To creep away in the darkness and crush leaves 
To smell their nature. "I was not like this 
A year ago," she thought wistfully, "to lie wakeful 
And stare at the words of a fool; in the high sweetness 
Of mountain night." Her solitary mind 
Made itself a strange thought: that Lance would be saved and 


But she herself would die at the baby's birth, 
After some happy months: it seemed to lead hope 
Into the line of nature again; for nobody ever 
Comes off scot-free. 

She slept a little; Lance woke 

And felt his hands aching, and thought, "It cannot be true 
That I killed. Oh yes, it is. At every waking. 
And there is no way to change it." Night was grown pale 
In the way to dawn, and many dark cold forms 



Of bush and rock stood quietly. But moving creatures 

Troubled the stillness, Lance heard the steps of pursuit 

Along the trail from the north, more than one rider; 

Then his long-frustrate and troublesome life 

Flaming like joy for the meeting, shook its bewildered elements 

To one sharp edge. He was up, and moved quietly, 

Willing to let Fayne sleep, in the sunset cloud 

And pillow of her hair. His puffed hot fingers buckled 

In a moment without fumbling the bolstered belt 

That had the gun; he caught the short-handled axe 

That magnetlike drew his hand; and the world was suddenly 

Most cool and spacious. 

Four lean steers 

Led by a barren cow were along the path. 
They had come to drink in the dawn twilight, and now 
Remembered a grass-plot southward. Where Lance met them 
The trail was but a hair of passage stepped in the face 
Of a leaning clay cliff; the leader stopped, 
Was pushed from behind, and trying in her fear to turn, 
Splayed with both forefeet over the slippery edge, 
Felt the axe bite her neck; so leaping out blindly 
Slid down the pit. They were horsemen to Lance, his enemies, 
Albeit a part of his mind was awake and faintly 
Knew what they were; the master part willed them to be 
Men pursuing a murderer; they were both cattle and men 
At the one moment. For being men, hated; for being cattle, 
The hand was more free to strike, the fiery delight 
More pure of guilt. The steer came on, not angrily, 
Dull and unable to turn, dipping his new-moon horns, 
Lance whining with joy and reckless of his own body 
With both hands on the axe-helve drove the sharp steel 
Into the shoulder; it broke right through the shoulder-blade 
And nicked the broad ribs below. At the same moment 
The curve and base of a horn found Lance's thigh 
And pushed; but he with his weight flung forward 
In the fury of the axe-blow went over the head 
Onto the shoulder, and a moment clung there, as when an old 



Has hunted under the spite of fortune for many days, until his 

bright hide is ruffled, and the ribs 
Lift up the hair; he comes by a secret way and crouches in the 

alder leaves an hour before dawn 
Over a pool where the deer drink; but not a deer but a cow-elk 

comes to the pool, 
And stands in the glimmer and the trembling twilight, and stoops 

her head: the puma watches, his lustful mind 
Can even taste the hot flesh through the rough hide, and smell the 

soft heavy fountain of blood: he springs, 
And sticks on the shoulder, blunting his teeth against the great 

bones of the neck; but the elk does not fall, 
But runs, and beats her death against the low branches, and scrapes 

him off: 

So Lance fell off from the steer's shoulder, and was ground 
Between the flank and the cliff, as the numbed foreleg 
Failed and recovered. The weight lifting, he stood 
With his back to the steep wall and violently 
Pushed the great hairy quarters with all his power 
Of both his arms; the hind hooves fell over the edge, 
And the forelegs, one crippled, scraped the stiff clay 
In vain for foothold, the great hurt bulk went down 
Standing, but fell in a moment and slid in the chasm. 
The others had turned and fled. 

Fayne saw her lover 

Come swaying and shining against the gray sky 
Over the abyss of darkness, and she had seen the steer fall. 
Lance held the axe. "Ah, Ah," Fayne cried, "strike then. Strike. 

Finish it. We have not lived pleasantly, 
And I have failed." He threatened her, laughing with pleasure. 

"I have not had such pleasure in the days of my life. 
Did the dogs think they were hunting rabbit? Surprised them, ah f 

ah?" She said, "Your hands have opened again 
And dripping fast." "More?" he said, hearing the horses that 

stamped and snorted beyond. "Oh, good. If they get me, 
Remember it's a grand end." He ran and struck 
The nearest; it was holding its head ready for the axe, backing and 




On the taut halter, and went down on its knees; the second stroke 
Chopped horribly along the neck, the third ended the pain. Lance 

crouched and looked at the head, and wearily 
Rose, and said slackly, "There was no way out, here, either. My 

own horse you see. 

I must 'a' been ... I have been troubled. 
Bearing my face on every glass gap and porthole . . . 
And get a beaten face. 

Were those more horses?" Fayne had stood rigid; she said, 
"Steers." "Why didn't they shoot? ... Oh ... Steers. Tbafs it. 
Yet I hate blood. 

See how it springs from the ground: struck oil at last, ah? 
I felt like this, that time. So we've tried a long time 
And never found 

My exit: I think there's none: the world's closed. 
A brave fellow, a tethered horse. 
A natural butcher." 

One of the fallen forelegs 
Paddled its hoof on the earth and Lance said faintly, "I've come to 

the point 

I cannot even put him out of his pain." 
He dropped the red axe; Fayne saw his own blood spring from his 


When he let go. "I think," he said, "have I got the gun on me? 
Will you finish him off?" "He is dead," she answered. 
"Listen, Lance." Her throat was twisting and beating upward 

with hot nausea; she swallowed and said, 
"Dearest. This is only a stumble on the way. We are going on. 

You will be well after this. 

You are dreadful with blood but you are too beautiful 
And strong to fail. Look, dear, 
How the clear quivering waters and white of dawn fill the whole 

world; they seem to wash the whole mountain 
All gently and white, and over the sea, purifying everything. If 

I were less tired 
I could be full of joy." She pressed her hands to her throat and 

swallowed and said, "Where you and I 



Have come to, is a dizzy and lonely place on a height; we have to 

peel off 
Some humanness here or it will be hard to live. If you could think 

that all human feelings, repentance 
And blood-thirst too, are not very important in so vast a world; 

nor anyone's life; 

Nor love either, the unlucky angel 
That has led me so far: we'll go on, we'll not fail. All over the 

The eagles and little falcons and all the bright cold hawks 

you've made friends with them now are widening 
Their wings to wash them in the cool clearness, and over the 

precipices launching their bodies like ships 
On the high waves of dawn. For us too 
Dawn brings us wandering; and any ghost or memory that wants 

to follow us will be sore in the feet 
Before the day's end. We're going until the world changes, you 

and I like the young hawks 
Going hunting; we'll take the world by the throat and make him 

give us 
What we desire." 

He stood bent over, smiling sidewise, watch- 
ing the drip from his hands, and said, 
"You do it quite bravely. No doubt you are right, and I must 

take your guidance without a word 
From this time on. What next? I'll go wash. Faugh. 
What a hell of red to be stuck in; you're out o' luck, 
Loving a butcher." She answered with her hands at her mouth, 

struggling against her sickness, "I'll come in a moment 
And help you to clean your hands and bandage them again." He 

went back by the trail, but she 
Vomited with grievous labor a little water and followed him. 

Now all the world was quite clear 
And full of dawn, so that Fayne saw from the trail 
The jutting shoulder of the hill, guessed at in darkness, 
Was a great rock, lengthened by thick hard foliage 
Of mountain laurel, which grew above it, and the wind had 




Into the very nature and form of the rock 

That gave it shelter, but green for gray. She remembered 

With a wild lift of the heart, "He'd wash the blood 

In Laurel Spring, and be healed of his wounds," 

But Lance had not gone to the stony basin, but stood 

Out on the ledge of the rock, and was looking down 

The straight vast depth, toward the beauty of the ocean 

Like a gray dove's breast under the dawn-light. She could not 

call to him 

Before he leaped and went down. He was falling erect 
With his feet under him for a long time, 
But toward the bottom he began turning in the air. 
One of the roots of the mountain concealed his end 
On the shore rocks. Fayne lay down in the trail 
And thought that when she was able she would go down to him, 
One way or another. ". . . That would be happiest. 
But then he'd be extinguished forever, his last young spark 
That lies warm in my body, bought too dear 
For gulls to eat . . . and I never could help you at all, 
And now has come the wild end. 
I could not keep you, but your child in my body 
Will change the world." 

She climbed slowly down, 

Rock to rock, bush to bush. At length she could see him 
Lying softly, and there was somebody bending above hini f 
Who was gone in a moment. It was not so dreadful 
As she had feared; she kissed the stained mouth, 
And brought smooth stones from the shore until she had covered 
Her love against the vultures and salty gulls; 
Then climbed up, rock to rock, bush to bush. 



True, the time, to one who does not love farce, 

And if misery must be prefers it nobler, shows apparent vices; 

At least it provides the cure for ambition. 

One does not crave power in ant-hills, nor praise in a paper forest; 

One must not even indulge the severe 

Romance of separateness, as of Milton grown blind and old 

In his broken temple against the drunkards: 

The ants are good creatures, there is nothing to be heroic about. 

But the time is not a strong prison either. 

A little scraping the walls of dishonest contractor's concrete 

Through a shower of chips and sand makes freedom. 

Shake the dust from your hair. This mountain sea-coast is real, 

For it reaches out far into past and future; 

It is part of the great and timeless excellence of things. A few 

Lean cows drift high up the bronze hill; 

The heavy-necked plow-team furrows the foreland, gulls tread 

the furrow; 

Time ebbs and flows but the rock remains. 
Two riders of tired horses canter on the cloudy ridge; 
Topaz-eyed hawks have the white air; 
Or a woman with jade-pale eyes, hiding a knife in her hand, 
Goes through cold rain over gray grass. 
God is here, too, secretly smiling, the beautiful power 
That piles up cities for the poem of their fall 
And gathers multitude like game to be hunted when the season 




Is it so hard for men to stand by themselves, 

They must hang on Marx or Christ, or mere Progress? 

Clearly it is hard. But these ought to be leaders . . . 

Sheep leading sheep, "The fold, the fold. 

Night comes, and the wolves of doubt." Clearly it is hard. 

Yourself, if you had not encountered and loved 

Our unkindly all but inhuman God, 

Who is very beautiful and too secure to want worshippers, 

And includes indeed the sheep with the wolves, 

You too might have been looking about for a church. 

He includes the flaming stars and pitiable flesh, 

And what we call things and what we call nothing. 

He is very beautiful. But when these lonely have travelled 

Through long thoughts to redeeming despair, 

They are tired and cover their eyes; they flock into fold. 



Science, that makes wheels turn, cities grow, 

Moribund people live on, playthings increase, 

But has fallen from hope to confusion at her own business 

Of understanding the nature of things; new Russia, 

That stood a moment at dreadful cost half free, 

Beholding the open, all the glades of the world 

On both sides of the trap, and resolutely 

Walked into the trap that has Europe and America; 

The poet, who wishes not to play games with words, 

His affair being to awake dangerous images 

And call the hawks; they all feed the future, they serve God, 

Who is very beautiful, but hardly a friend of humanity. 



the mind smiles at its own rebellions, 
Knowing all the while that civilization and the other evils 
That make humanity ridiculous, remain 
Beautiful in the whole fabric, excesses that balance each other 
Like the paired wings of a flying bird. 
Misery and riches, civilization and squalid savagery, 
Mass war and the odor of unmanly peace: 
Tragic flourishes above and below the normal of life. 
In order to value this fretful time 

It is necessary to remember our norm, the unaltered passions, 
The same-colored wings of imagination, 

That the crowd clips, in lonely places new-grown; the unchanged 
Lives of herdsmen and mountain farms, 
Where men are few, and few tools, a few weapons, and their 

dawns are beautiful. 

From here for normal one sees both ways, 
And listens to the splendor of God, the exact poet, the sonorous 
Antistrophe of desolation to the strophe multitude. 



If one should tell them what's clearly seen 

They'd not understand; if they understood they would not 


If they understood and believed they'd say, 
"Hater of men, annihilating with a sterile enormous 
Splendor our lives: where are our lives?" 
A little chilled perhaps, but not hurt. But it's quite true 
The invulnerable love is not bought for nothing. 
It is better no doubt to give crumbs than the loaf; make fables 


Tell people not to fear death, toughen 
Their bones if possible with bitter fables not to fear life. 
And one's own, not to have pity too much; 
For it seems compassion sacks longer than the other colors, in 

this bleaching cloth. 



TO U. J. 

When you and I on the Palos Verdes cliff 

Found life more desperate than dear, 

And when we hawked at it on the lake by Seattle, 

In the west of the world, where hardly 

Anything has died yet: we'd not have been sorry, Una, 

But surprised, to foresee this gray 

Coast in our days, the gray waters of the Moyle 

Below us, and under our feet 

The heavy black stones of the cairn of the lord of Ulster. 

A man of blood who died bloodily 

Four centuries ago: but death's nothing, and life, 

From a high death-mark on a headland 

Of this dim island of burials, is nothing either. 

How beautiful are both these nothings. 



Steep up in Lubitavish townland stands 

A ring of great stones like fangs, the shafts of the stones 

Grown up with thousands of years of gradual turf, 

The fangs of the stones still biting skyward; and hard 

Against the stone ring, the oblong enclosure 

Of an old grave guarded with erect slabs; gray rocks 

Backed by broken thorn-trees, over the gorge of Glenaan; 

It is called Ossian's Grave. Ossian rests high then, 

Haughtily alone. 

If there were any fame or burial or monument 

For me to envy, 

Warrior and poet they should be yours and yours. 

For this is the pure fame, not caged in a poem, 

Fabulous, a glory untroubled with works, a name in the north 

Like a mountain in the mist, like Aura 

Heavy with heather and the dark gray rocks, or Trostan 

Dark purple in the cloud: happier than what the wings 

And imperfections of work hover like vultures 

Above the carcass. 

I also make a remembered name; 
And I shall return home to the granite stones 
On my cliff over the greatest ocean 
To be blind ashes under the butts of the stones: 
As you here under the f anged limestone columns 
Are said to lie, over the narrow north straits 
Toward Scotland, and the quick-tempered Moyle. But written 


Will blot for too long a year the bare sunlight 
Above my rock lair, heavy black birds 
Over the field and the blood of the lost battle. 



Oh but we lived splendidly 

In the brief light of day 

Who now twist in our graves. 

You in the guard of the fanged 

Erect stones; and the man-slayer 

Shane O'Neill dreams yonder at Cushendun 

Crushed under his cairn; 

And Hugh McQuillan under his cairn 

By his lost field in the bog on Aura; 

And I a foreigner, one who has come to the country of the dead 

Before I was called, 

To eat the bitter dust of my ancestors; 

And thousands on tens of thousands in the thronged earth 

Under the rotting freestone tablets 

At the bases of broken round towers; 

And the great Connaught queen on her mountain-summit 

The high cloud hoods, it creeps through the eyes of the cairn, 

We dead have our peculiar pleasures, of not 

Doing, of not feeling, of not being. 

Enough has been felt, enough done, Oh and surely 

Enough of humanity has been. We lie under stones 

Or drift through the endless northern twilights 

And draw over our pale survivors the net of our dream. 

All their lives are less 

Substantial than one of our deaths, and they cut turf 

Or stoop in the steep 

Short furrows, or drive the red carts, like weeds waving 

Under the glass of water in a locked bay, 

Which neither the wind nor the wave nor their own will 

Moves; when they seem to awake 

It is only to madden in their dog-days for memories of dreams 

That lost all meaning many centuries ago. 

Oh but we lived splendidly 

In the brief light of day, 

You with hounds on the mountain 

And princes in palaces, 



I on the western cliff 

In the rages of the sun: 

Now you lie grandly under your stones 

But I in a peasant's hut 

Eat bread bitter with the dust of dead men; 

The water I draw at the spring has been shed for tears 

Ten thousand times, 

Or wander through the endless northern twilights 

From the rath to the cairn, through fields 

Where every field-stone's been handled 

Ten thousand times, 

In a uterine country, soft 

And wet and worn out, like an old womb 

That I have returned to, being dead. 

Oh but we lived splendidly 

Who now twist in our graves. 

The mountains are alive; 

Tievebuilleagh lives, Trostan lives, 

Lurigethan lives; 

And Aura, the black-faced sheep in the belled heather; 

And the swan-haunted loughs; but also a few of us dead 

A life as inhuman and cold as those. 



No vulture is here, hardly a hawk, 
Could long wings or great eyes fly 
Under this low-lidded soft sky? 

On the wide heather the curlew's whistle 
Dies of its echo, it has no room 
Under the low lid of this tomb. 

But one to whom mind and imagination 
Sometimes used to seem burdensome 
Is glad to lie down awhile in the tomb. 

Among stones and quietness 

The mind dissolves without a sound, 

The flesh drops into the ground. 




e climbed by the old quarries to the wide highland of heath, 
On the slope of a swale a giant dolmen, 
Three heavy basalt pillars upholding the enormous skb, 
Towers and abides as if time were nothing. 
The hard stones are hardly dusted with lichen in nobody knows 
What ages of autumns in this high solitude 
Since a recordless tribe of an unknown race lifted them up 
To be the availing hero's memorial, 
And temple of his power. They gathered their slighter dead 

from the biting 

Winds of time in his lee, the wide moor 

About him is swollen with barrows and breaks upon many stones, 
Lean gray guardians of old urned ashes, 

In waves on waves of purple heather and blithe spray of its bells. 
Here lies the hero, more than half God, 
And nobody knows his name nor his race, in the bee-bright 


With the stone circle and his tribe around him. 
Sometimes perhaps (but who'd confess it?) in soft adolescence 
We used to wonder at the world, and have wished 
To hear some final harmony resolve the discords of life? 
Here they are all perfectly resolved. 




Whoever is able will pursue the plainly 

False immortality of not having lived in vain but leaving some 
mark in the world. 

Secretly mocking at his own insanity 

He labors the same, he knows that no dead man's lip was ever 
curled in self-scorn, 

And immortality is for the dead. 

Jesus and Caesar out of the bricks of man's weakness, Washington 
out of the brittle 

Bones of man's strength built their memorials, 

This nameless chief of a knot of forgotten tribes in the Irish dark- 
ness used faithfuller 

Simpler materials: to diadem a hilltop 

That sees the long loughs and the Mourne Mountains, with a ring 
of enormous embankment, and to build 

In the center that great toad of a dolmen 

Piled up of ponderous basalt that sheds the centuries like rain- 
drops. He drove the labor, 

And has earmarked already some four millenniums. 

His very presence is here, thick-bodied and brutish, a brutal and 
senseless will-power. 

Immortality? While Homer and Shakespeare are names, 

Not of men but verses, and the elder has not lived nor the 
younger will not, such treadings of time. 

Conclude that secular like Christian immortality's 

Too cheap a bargain: the name, the work or the soul: glass beads 
are the trade for savages. 




Who is it beside me, who is here beside me, in the hollow hill?" 
A foreigner I am. "You've dug for nothing. The Danes were here 
A thousand years before you and robbed me of my golden brace- 

Stinking red-haired men from the sea, with torches and swords." 
Dead king, you keep a better treasure than bracelets, 
The peace of the dead is dearer than gold, no one can rob you. 

What do you watch, old king, from the cave? "In the north the 

muddy chippers of flint on the Antrim coast, 
Their chests covered with hair and filth, shrewd eyes under 

bushes of brow, clicking the flints together. 
How we used to hate those hunters. One squats in a cave-mouth 

and makes an axe, one in a dune shapes bolt-heads." 
They have all (and we too, old king) been dead for thousands of 

years. I see in the north a red-haired woman 
Meeting her lover by Shane O'Neill's cairn, her peasant husband 

is drunk at home, she drifts up the hill 
In the sleeve of twilight. "Mary Byrnes is that you?" "Ye may 

kiss a hure but not name her. Ah, lad, come down. 
When I was a wee maid I used to be loving Jesus, 
All helpless and bleeding on the big cross. I'd never have married 

my drunkard only the cart ran over him. 
He lay helpless and bleeding in the black lane. Och, laddie, not 

here now. 
Carry me up to the cairn: a man lies bloodily under the sharp 

black stones, I love that man." 
Mary Byrnes, when her lover has done and finished, before he 

stands up 
To button his clothes together, runs a knife in his throat. "Oh 

Shane O'Neill it's you I was loving, 



Never one else. You helpless and bleeding under the stones. 
Do ye weary of stretching quiet the four long centuries? Take 

this lad's blood to hearten you, it drops through the stones. 
Drips, drops in the stones. 
Drink, Shane; drink, dear: who cares if a hure is hanged? We kill 

each other in Ireland to pleasure the dead." 

Great upright stones higher than the height of a man are our walls, 
Huge overlapping stones are the summer clouds in our sky. 
The hill of boulders is heaped over all. Each hundred years 
One of the enormous stones will move an inch in the dark. 
Each double century one of the oaks on the crown of the mound 
Above us breaks in a wind, an oak or an ash grows. 

"I see in the south Cloyne round tower burning: the Christians 

have built a spire, the thieves from the sea have burnt it, 
The happy flame streams roaring up the stone tube and breaks 

from the four windows below the stone roof 
Like four bright banners. 
The holy men scream in their praying, the golden reliquaries are 

melted, the bell falls clanging." 
They have all (and we too, old king) been dead for a thousand 

years. I see on the island mountain Achill, 
In the west where wave after wave of the beaten tribes ran up 

and starved, an old woman, her head 
Covered with a shawl, sits on Slieve Mor. Two thin sharp tears 

like knives in the yellow grooves of her face, 
"My cow has died," she says, "and my son forgets me." She 

crouches and starves, in the quivering Atlantic wind, 
Among the great skulls of quartz on the Achill mountain. 

What do you watch, old king, from the cave? "A cause of mighty 
laughter in the mound on the hill at Dundalk. 

They piled the earth on the blood of one of their spitfire princes, 
their bold watchdog of the Ulster border. 

After two handfuls of centuries 

One Bruce, a younger drinker of battles, bloodily ceasing to be 
king of Ireland was buried above him. 



Now a rich merchant has built his house on the mound's head, 
a living man. The old capon perches there trembling, 

The young men of Ireland are passionate again, it is bad for 
a man of peace to have built on the hill of battles, 

Oh his dear skin, Oh the papers of his wealth. 

Cuchulain looks up at Bruce and Bruce at the sweating merchant. 
By God if we dead that watch the living 

Could open our mouths, the earth would be split with laughter."* 

I hear like a hum in the ground the Boyne running through the 


Fields forever, and one of our great blue spiral-cut stones 
Settle in the dark a hair's breadth under the burden of the hill. 
"We hear from cairn to cromlech all over Ireland the dead 
Whisper and conspire, and whinnies of laughter tinkle in the 

The living dream but the dead are awake." 

High in Donegal, in the bitter waste north, where miles on miles 

of black heather dwindle to the Bloody Foreland, 
Walks an old priest, near crazy with solitude and his peasants 

like cattle, he has wrestled with his mental Satan 
Half his lifetime, and endured and triumphed. He feels the reward 

suddenly await him, the churchyard wall 
Looks light and faint, the slabs and mounds by the entrance. In 

the midst of mass the crucified image trembles 
Above the altar, and favorably smiles. Then Father O'Donnel 
Gabbles the Latin faster to an end and turns himself once more 

and says to the people, "Go home now. 

Missa est." In the empty church he screams and spits on the Christ, 
He strikes it with his hand. Well done, old priest. "Is the man on 

the cross his God, why does he strike his God?" 
Because the tortured torturer is too long dying; because the strain 

in the wounded minds of men 
Leaves them no peace; but here where life is worn out men should 

have peace. He desires nothing but unconsciousness, 
To slip in the black bottomless lake and be still. Time for us also, 



Old king, although no strain so many thousands of years has 

wounded our minds, time to have done 
With vision, as in the world's youth with desire and deed. To lie 

in the dark in the hill until the stones crumble, 
\nd the earth and the stars suck into nothing, the wheel slopes 

and returns, the beautiful burden is renewed. 
For probably all the same things will be born and be beautiful 

again, but blessed is the night that has no glowworm. 



No spot of earth where men have so fiercely for ages of time 

Fought and survived and cancelled each other, 

Pict and Gael and Dane, McQuillan, Clandonnel, O'Neill, 

Savages, the Scot, the Norman, the English, 

Here in the narrow passage and the pitiless north, perpetual 

Betrayals, relentless resultless fighting. 

A random fury of dirks in the dark: a struggle for survival 

Of hungry blind cells of life in the womb. 

But now the womb has grown old, her strength has gone forth; 

a few red carts in a fog creak flax to the dubs, 
And sheep in the high heather cry hungrily that life is hard; a 

plaintive peace; shepherds and peasants. 

We have felt the blades meet in the flesh in a hundred ambushes 

And the groaning blood bubble in the throat; 

In a hundred battles the heavy axes bite the deep bone, 

The mountain suddenly stagger and be darkened. 

Generation on generation we have seen the blood of boys 

And heard the moaning of women massacred, 

The passionate flesh and nerves have flamed like pitch-pine and 


And lain in the earth softly dissolving. 
I have lain and been humbled in all these graves, and mixed new 

flesh with the old and filled the hollow of my mouth 
With maggots and rotten dust and ages of repose. I lie here and 

plot the agony of resurrection. 



Friendship, when a friend meant a helping sword, 

Faithfulness, when power and life were its fruits, hatred, when 

the hated 
Held steel at your throat or had killed your children, were more 

than metaphors. 
Life and the world were as bright as knives. 

But now, if I should recall my ruins 

From the grass-roots and build my body again in the heavy grave, 

Twist myself naked up through the earth like a strong white 

Tip the great stone, gulp the white air, 

And live once more after long ages 

In the change of the world: I should find the old human affections 


Should I need a friend? No one will really stab me from behind, 
The people in the land of the living walk weaponless. 

Should I hate an enemy? The evil-doers 

Are pitiable now. Or to whom be faithful? Of whom seek faith? 
Who has eaten of the victor's feast and shared the fugitive silence 
Of beaten men on the mountain: suffer 

Resurrection to join this midge-dance 

Of gutted and multiplied echoes of life in the latter sun? 

Dead man, be quiet. A fool of a merchant, who'd sell good earth 

And grass again to make modern flesh. 



The old pagan burials, uninscribed rock, 

Secret-keeping mounds, 

Have shed the feeble delusions that built them, 

They stand inhumanly 

Clean and massive; they have lost their priests. 

But the cross-bearing stones 

Still foot corruption, and their faces carved 

With hopes and terrors 

At length too savagely annulled to be left 

Even ridiculous. 

Long-suffering saints, flamelike aspirers, 

You have won your reward: 

You sleep now as easily as any dead murderer 

Or worn-out lecher. 

To have found your faith a liar is no thorn 

In the narrow beds, 

Nor laughter of unfriends nor rumor of the ruinous 

Churches will reach you. 

As at Clonmacnoise I saw them all ruined, 

And at Cong, at Glendalough, 

At Monasterboice; and at Kilrnacduagh 

All ruined, all roofless 

But the great cyclopean-stoned spire 

That leans toward its fall. 

A place perfectly abandoned of life, 

Except that we heard 

One old horse neighing across the stone hedges 

In the flooded fields. 



I wish not to lie here. 

There's hardly a plot of earth not blessed for burial, but here 

One might dream badly. 

In beautiful seas a beautiful 

And sainted island, but the dark earth so shallow on the rock 

Gorged with bad meat. 

Kings buried in the lee of the saint, 

Kings of fierce Norway, blood-boltered Scotland, bitterly 

Treacherous Ireland. 

Imagine what delusions of grandeur, 

What suspicion-agonized eyes, what jellies of arrogance and 

This earth has absorbed. 




The whole countryside deployed on the hills of heather, an army 

with banners, 

The beaters whoop the grouse to the butts. 
Three gentlemen fling up their guns and the frightened covey is 

a few wings fewer; 

Then grooms approach with the panniered horses. 
The gray old moorland silence has closed like water and covered 

the gunshots. 

Wave on wave goes the moor to the great 
Circle of the sky; the cairn on the slope names an old battle and 

beyond are 

Broad gray rocks the grave-marks of clans. 
Blond Celtic warriors lair in the sky-line barrows, down toward 

the sea 

Stand the tall stones of the Danish captains. 
We dead that handled weapons and hunted in earnest, we old 

dead have watched 
Three little living gentlemen yonder 

With a bitter flavor in the grin of amusement, uneasily remem- 
bering our own 
Old sports and delights. It is better to be dust. 



At East Lulworth the dead were friendly and pitiful, I saw them 

peek from their ancient earthworks on the coast hills 
At the camps of the living men in the valley, the army-mechanics' 

barracks, the roads where they try the tanks 
And the armored cars: "We also," they say, "trembled in our 

time. We felt the world change in the rain, 
Our people like yours were falling under the wheel. Great 

past and declining present are a pitiful burden 
For living men; but failure is not the worm that worries 

the dead, you will not weep when you come," 
Said the soft mournful shadows on the Dorset shore. And those 

on the Rollright ridge by the time-eaten stone-circle 
Said nothing and had no wish in the world, having blessedly aged 

out of humanity, stared with great eyes 
White as the hollowed limestone, not caring but seeing, inhuman 

as the wind. 

But the other ghosts were not good, 
But like a moon of jackals around a sick stag. 
At Zennor in the tumbled granite chaos, at Marazion and the 

angel's Mount, from the hoar tide-lines: 
"Be patient, dead men, the tides of their day have turned," from 

the stone rings of the dead huts on Dartmoor, 
The prison town like a stain of dirt on the distant hill: "We not 

the last," they said, "shall be hopeless, 
We not alone hunger in the rain." From Avebury in the high 

heart of England, in the ancient temple, 
When all the cottages darkened themselves to sleep: "Send it 

along the ridge- ways and say it on the hilltops 
That the bone is broken and the meat will fall." 

There was also a 

ghost of a king, his cheeks hollow as the brows 
Of an old horse, was paddling his hands in the reeds of Dozmare 
Pool, in the shallow, in the rainy twilight, 

47 8 


Feeling for the hilt of a ruinous and rusted sword. But they said 

"Be patient a little, you king of shadows, 
But only wait, they will waste like snow." Then Arthur left 

hunting for the lost sword, he grinned and stood up 
Gaunt as a wolf; but soon resumed the old labor, shaking the 

reeds with his hands. 

Northeastward to Wantage 
On the chalk downs the Saxon Alfred 
Witlessly walks with his hands lamenting. "Who are the people 

and who are the enemy?" He says bewildered, 
"Who are the living, who are the dead?" The more ancient dead 
Watch him from the wide earthworks on White Horse Hill, 

peer from the Ridgeway barrows, goggle from the broken 
Mound and the scattered stones in the oval wood above Ashbury. 

They whisper and exult. 

In the north also 
I saw them, from the Picts' houses in the black Caithness heather 

to the bleak stones on Culloden Moor, 
The rags of lost races and beaten clans, nudging each other, the 

blue lips cracking with joy, the fleshless 
Anticipatory fingers jabbing at the south. And on the Welsh 

Were dead men skipping and fleering behind all the hedges. An 

island of ghosts. They seemed merry, and to feel 
No pity for the great pillar of empire settling to a fall, the pride 

and the power slowly dissolving. 



I am not dead, I have only become inhuman: 

That is to say, 

Undressed myself of laughable prides and infirmities, 

But not as a man 

Undresses to creep into bed, but like an athlete 

Stripping for the race. 

The delicate ravel of nerves that made me a measurer 

Of certain fictions 

Called good and evil; that made me contract with pain 

And expand with pleasure; 

Fussily adjusted like a little electroscope: 

That's gone, it is true; 

(I never miss it; if the universe does, 

How easily replaced!) 

But all the rest is heightened, widened, set free. 

I admired the beauty 

While I was human, now I am part of the beauty. 

I wander in the air, 

Being mostly gas and water, and flow in the ocean; 

Touch you and Asia 

At the same moment; have a hand in the sunrises 

And the glow of this grass. 

I left the light precipitate of ashes to earth 

For a love-token. 



Doggerel," he thought, "will do for church-wardens, 
Poetry's precious enough not to be wasted," 
And rhymed it all out with a skew smile: 
"Spare these stones. Curst be he that moves my bones- 
Will hold the hands of masons and grave-diggers." 
But why did the good man care? For he wanted quietness. 
He had tasted enough life in his time 
To stuff a thousand; he wanted not to swim wide 
In waters, nor wander the enormous air, 
Nor grow into grass, enter through the mouths of cattle 
The bodies of lusty women and warriors, 
But all be finished. He knew it feelingly; the game 
Of the whirling circles had become tiresome. 
"Annihilation's impossible, but insulated 
In the church under the rhyming flagstone 
Perhaps my passionate ruins may be kept off market 
To the end of this age. Oh, a thousand years 
Will hardly leach," he thought, "this dust of that fire." 



Gome (we say) Clemenceau. 

Why should you live longer than others? The vacuum that sucked 

Us down, and the former stars, draws at you also. 

No wrench for a man near ninety. 

They were younger who crowded us out of distinction the year 

you drove them 
Like flies on a fire. We don't say it was wrong. 

We don't say it was right. 

These heavy choices are less than verbal, down here, to us dead. 

Never a thorn in the crown of greatness down here. 

Not even Wilson laments here 

The cuckoo brood of design. This is the cave you conjectured; 

Nothing in death, as nothing in life, surprises you. 

You were not surprised when France 

Put you aside, when the war was finished, as a sick man mending 

Puts aside the strong poison that turned his fever. 

You'd not be surprised to hear 

Your enemies praising your name and the Paris cannon applaud 

Not surprised, nor much pleased, nor envious of more. 

Your negative straightness of mind 

And bleached like a drowned man's cast-up thigh-bone by erod- 
ing age- 
Hardly required the clear corrections of death. 



Walking in the flat Oxfordshire fields 

Where the eye can find no rock to rest on but little flints 

Speckle the soil, and the million-berried hedges 

Tingle with birds at evening, I saw the sombre 

November day redden and go down; a flight of lapwings 

Whirled in the hollow of the field, and half-tame pheasants 

Cried from the trees. I remembered impatiently 

How the long bronze mountain of my own coast, 

Where color is no account and pathos ridiculous, the sculpture 

is all, 

Breaks the arrows of the setting sun 
Over the enormous mounded eyeball of ocean. 

The soft alien twilight 

Worn and weak with too much humanity hooded my mind. 
Poor flourishing earth, meek-smiling slave, 
If sometime the swamps return and the heavy forest, black beech 

and oak-roots 

Break up the paving of London streets; 
And only, as long before, on the lifted ridgeways 
Few people shivering by little fires 
Watch the night of the forest cover the land 
And shiver to hear the wild dogs howling where the cities were, 
Would you be glad to be free? I think you will never 
Be glad again, so kneaded with human flesh, so humbled and 


Here all's down hill and passively goes to the grave, 
Asks only a pinch of pleasure between the darknesses, 
Contented to think that everything has been done 
That's in the scope of the race: so should I also perhaps 
Dream, under the empty angel of this twilight, 
But the great memory of that unhumanized world, 
With all its wave of good and evil to climb yet, 
Its exorbitant power to match, its heartless passion to equal, 
And all its music to make, beats on the grave-mound. 



It seems hardly necessary to stipulate that the elegiac tone of 
these verses reflects the writer's mood, and is not meant for eco- 
nomic or political opinion. 

Shane O'NeiU's cairn and the dateless monument called Ossian's 
Grave stand within a couple of miles of each other on the Antrim 

A dolmen is a prehistoric burial-house made of great stones set 
on end, roofed by a slab of stone. There are many still standing in 
Ireland and England. 

Newgrange is one of three great artificial hills, on the Boyne 
west of Drogheda. Passages and cells were made of megalithic 
stonework, decorated with designs cut in the great stones, and the 
hills were heaped over them. No one assigns a reasonable date to 
these erections. Evidently they are burial mounds, like the pyra- 

The Irish round towers are well known, of course, slender, taper- 
ing spires of stone and lime mortar, of mysterious origin, but 
probably belfries and towers of refuge, built between 600 and 
1 200 A.D. They are associated with the earliest Christian churches. 

Antrim is the northeasternmost county of Ireland, only a few 
sea-miles from Scotland. lona is the sacred island of the Hebrides. 

Avebury is a little Wiltshire village inside a great prehistoric 
stone-circle and fosse. It was the religious and perhaps the political 
capital of southern England before Stonehenge was built, i.e., 
before 2000 B.C., probably. The circle and the remaining stones 
are greater than those at Stonehenge, but the stones were not 
hewn to shape. Most of them are gone now; broken up to build 
the village. 

Dozmare Pool is in Cornwall, a little flat mere in a wide wilder- 
ness, said to be the water where the sword Excalibur was cast 
away when King Arthur died. 

The ridgeways are ancient grass-grown roads on the ridges of the 
hills, used by the pre-Celtic inhabitants of England, when the 
lowlands were impassable swamp and forest. 



(The story of Achilles rising from the dead for love of Helen 
is well enough known. That of Polyxo's vengeance may be less 
familiar; it can be found in Pausanias' "Description of Greece," 
explaining the Rhodian worship of Helen as Dendritis, the tree- 

The scene is the fore-court of a noble dwelling on the island of 
Rhodes. Portico of the house, with steps of heavy stone and 
painted wooden columns, but all worn and old. Black pine-forest 
on the hill behind. One great pine stands to the left of the steps, 
near the house-wall; it is old, with contorted boughs, one of 
which overhangs the steps. The time is nearly twenty years after 
the fall of Troy. 

Enter a shepherd and his little son, the shepherd leading a re- 
luctant lamb by a noosed thong. They come from the right 
foreground, and go toward the left. 

THE SHEPHERD The gods get hungry like you and me, so it has 

to die. 
THE BOY But you called her mine; you promised that I might 

rear her. Oh father. 
THE SHEPHERD I can't help that. You have a shepherd's eye and 

you chose the perfect one. We eat the runts and the lame, 

the gods want perfection; the run of the season, that is 

neither poor nor perfect, is for wool and breeding. Choose 

THE BOY Only to lose again. 

A mm comes in running^ from the left. 
THE SHEPHERD Hey, Fisherman? 
THE FISHERMAN (breathless) You had better fetch in your flock, 

and tell cowboy. Pirates I think. 
THE SHEPHERD What, what, what? 



THE FISHERMAN Ohey, the house! Who is at the door? A ship 
has landed. 

THE PORTER Who's there? A ship? 

THE FISHERMAN Armed men coming ashore from a black ship. 
I left Calcho watching. 

The porter turns in the doorway. Shouting is heard from 
'within the house. The shepherd and boy scurry away out of 
sight, tugging the lamb. 

THE PORTER What kind of a ship? 

THE FISHERMAN (breathless) Akh. Akh. The kind that people 
sail in. 

A few men with spears or pikes begin to come down between 
the columns; one is adjusting a leather helmet, another strug- 
gles clumsily with his shield. 

Calcho comes in from the left. He is a fisherman too, and car- 
ries the trident fish-spear of his trade. 

THE FIRST FISHERMAN Oh, here is Calcho. Didn't they catch 

THE PORTER Where are they, Calcho? Raiding the pasture? 
Speak, man. 

CALCHO They are coming quietly up the path. 

The spearmen begin to form across the courtyard, at the foot 
of the steps. The first fisherman edges around behind them. 

THE PORTER What? Armed men? (turning) My lady . . . 

He moves to the side, to stand by one of the columns. Polyxo, 
the lady of the house, comes to the head of the steps, and 
speaks across the spearheads below her. 

POLYXO Tell me what you have seen, Calcho. 

CALCHO We dare not launch; the west is too full of wind; we 
drop our lines from the rock. I heard oars groaning; 

That long black ship glided below us like a dream and came in 
and landed. These are some great lord's men; 

I watched when they leaped the strake. They have fierce obedi- 
ent faces; their life is outside them; they would do anything 

Without winking. As for the woman with them . . . 

POLYXO A woman? 


For whom they laid the plank to the strand; 



I watched and her beauty was like the thoughts of God, burn- 
ing and calm. 

POLYXO We knew one like that: 

Gold and fire and ivory; King Menelaus his adulterous wife: that 
Helen, for whose lawless luxury 

Ten thousand died; the lord of my love and of this island among 
them . . . for a wanton. If this were that fountain 

Of death! We've prayed for it; did the men speak like Spartans? 
I dream too much. 

CALCHO Not a word. 

He looks behind him, and joins the defenders of the house, 
holding his trident as they hold their pikes. The strangers 
come in, masked identically, moving like one machine. The 
woman with them might be either their captive or their 
queen; a fold of her cloak is drawn over her face. 


Who are you, strangers? It is peace I think? 

The woman drops her cloak from her face and head; the hair 
is golden and the face ivory. An exclamation like a sigh of 
wonder is heard among Polyxo's people. 

HELEN Peace and love, dear. 

POLYXO (shuddering) Ah. Yes. Your 

face, Helen, 

Has been much in my dreams. . . . My eyes are too old to see 
only the beauty among the tricks of the world. 

What are these warriors? 

HELEN Fll tell you that in the house, when you 

are kind. Do you remember, Polyxo, 

A day in spring, you and I were laughing together beside the 
flooded Eurotas? I garlanded 

Your dear dark head with flowers before we bathed together, 
parting the green reeds of the bank. 

Our skies were clear and no grief had come; you were my guest 

Now I am yours. 

The household spearmen have moved to right and left of the 
steps at the word "peace" so that the space between the two 



women is cleared; Polyxo standing at the head of the steps and 

Helen in front of her guard. 
POLYXO Grief has come; and that day is dead. ... A man was 

here last year from Laconia 
Passing to Egypt, who boasted that neither time nor grief nor 

weariness touched Helen's face. We judged him 
A liar. 

HELEN You find me much changed, Polyxo. 
POLYXO Changed? A woman 

who has been a wild cause of misery and death 
Will surely be pale with repentance; a woman famously unfaith- 
ful, surely purple with shame; a woman 

Pursued by the ghosts of slaughtered men and a screaming city- 
could hardly escape marking I think: 
The cheeks furrowed, and the eyes a haggard stare between the 

red eyelids . . . Nothing nothing nothing 
Not a line, not a mark. You have wandered through life uncaring, 

untouched, heartless, unmarked, and all your wickedness 
Is like a song. 

HELEN Must I not love you any more, once my dear friend? 

POLYXO Whilst I ... Oh, your beauty is pure, 
Young and burning and holy; you are not changed from the 

bride Menelaus unveiled or the young wife 
The long soft eyes of Paris lustfully lingered on; whilst Ilook 

at me. 

She zmcovers her head, throwing down the Tynan headdress; 

her thin gray-white hair, corded throat and wrinkled cheeks 

are seen. 

It was no trick of mine 
That drew ten thousand down to black death and burnt the chief 

towers of Asia. But you the gods have made 
To look pure forever. The gods do strangely. 
Perhaps . . . they leave justice to men. 
HELEN . They are in their cloud; 

we know too little about them. We know 
They love and surely reward the hospitable house. May I go 

into your house, Polyxo? I am homeless. 
We have come far; weary are the waves. 



POLYXO Not yet. I am think- 

ing what gift ... Is Menelaus behind you 

Baying on the trail? He will find it hard perhaps to raise the Greek 
princes a second time. 

HELEN My lord 

Grew old, and has left me, in the aging world. Carved stones con- 
tain him, with all the careful honors of death, 

In high Therapnse. 

POLYXO Well old. Some have died 

Young. You are all alone then? If any evil-disposed or remem- 
bering person should do you hurt, 

No husband would come, nor no fierce lover, to find the quarrel 
and avenge you? It is bitter to be left alone. 

I have learned that. 

HELEN Very bitter. Worse to be exiled. Old friends 

I see begin to regard you 

Strangely and coldly; they let you stand at the door. 

POLYXO I have not 

only myself to think of, but all 

This island people. You come questionably. Tell me who exiled 
you, for what new . . . we'll not say crime: the . . . 

Adventures of one so immortally beautiful must not be called . . . 

HELEN Call them, Oh my lost friend, by any 

Bleak shameful name that your heart can bear, but not me beau- 
tiful. That name is my hill of miseries. Many 

Women are beautiful; and some have peace; and a few are happy. 
I am exiled indeed, but for no crime. 

The sons of Menelaus by that other woman have always hated me. 
They inherit the kingdom, and I 

Am exiled. 

POLYXO Not without reason; they would give the people a 

HELEN I am not here to be judged. A storm 

That struck Therapnae, and the living dead, perhaps had fright- 
ened them. 

POLYXO What is this? You shall tell me all the story 

Before you come in my door. 



HELEN (turning to her guardsmen) 

Servants of Achilles: you see that 

friendship is a fading and fragile hope 
Among the living. With you in the high sepulchres 
It stands, if anything does. Oh soldiers, where will you take me, to 

what refuge, if I refuse 
To humble myself before this woman, but turn and shake off the 

eyes of Rhodes and enter the ship, 
Where will you sail to? 
THE CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD Queen: to the mound on the Asian 

foreland. You know our condition: that we have no home 
But the high, holy and quiet sepulchre. A ship is made to sail 

home; we shall hasten home. 
HELEN (shuddering) Ah, Ah. 

I knew that! 

THE CAPTAIN The west wind still wildly blows. 
HELEN Oh soldiers: you 

know that Achilles your master loved me. Look north; 
You can see from here like a blue shadow on the raging sea 
Ancient Crete, and the snows of Cretan Mount Ida; take me there 

and leave me; leave me on the sand 
Like a beggar woman, and hasten home. 
THE CAPTAIN We must not beach the 

black prow again, we must hasten home. 
To the burial-hill. To the wailing Trojan ghosts. To dust and 

ashes. (She turns toward the house.) I will contrive to be 


Polyxo: I am the woman 

Whom Theseus loved, and high-born Menelaus, and beautiful- 
throated Paris, and Deiphobus, 
And one greater than these more terribly, whom I shall name. I 

would rather have been a shepherd's daughter 
To run barefoot and milk the mountain ewes, and pat the curd 

into cheeses. 

POLYXO Far better for you; 
Or else to be strangled at birth. 



HELEN Yet I remember the good gray 

elders of Troy, having seen their sons 

For my sake slain, and knowing me the poison in the city's heart- 
yet when they passed me, walking like kings, 
They would look at my face with love, they never reproached 

me. I have memories of men doing nobly, to make me patient 
In the day of humiliation. 

(She stands in silence, struggling 'with her pride, 'while Polyxo 

bitterly 'watches. Helen continues:) 
But Achilles, 
Violent and fierce, whom nothing could bind: for while he lived 

he dared affront Agamemnon the king, 
And had no reverence for beautiful human flesh, but pierced the 

shining feet of Hector slain 
And dragged him about and about the city at the chariot's tail, 

defiling the beautiful heroic body; 
But after he was dead he opposed 

The purpose of God. . . . He said my remembered face tor- 
mented him, he had no reverence but lusted for me, 
In his life he had never known me, in his death he lusted. He 

wrestled with Death in the shut darkness; he broke 
The mighty wrists and the mound of burial. He stood on the 

broken head of the mound and shouted to his men, 
Whose graves pit the wide plain. They had never failed to obey 

him, they heard and rose. All the fierce Myrmidons, 
Dark faces and fire in the hollow eye-sockets and earth-matted 

hair; staring they stood. These men here 
Are of those that stood up. 

(Movement of Polyxo's people. They retreat a little, but a 

line of the best draws across the foot of the steps again, so that 

Polyxo is seen again above spearheads. She herself shows fear, 

but says:) 
POLYXO Go on. Tell it all. Whatever I resolve 

to do will not be shaken 

By the lies of the poets you listen to in idle Sparta 
Or lonely Therapnse in the long evenings. 
HELEN I would to God it 

were lies. Why do you hate me, Polyxo? 




Tell your tale. 

HELEN I cannot. I will not. Soldiers: 

Will you not speak? 

THE MYRMIDONS (clashing their shields, and making a heavy 

pacing dance, as of bronze puppets; but I think only the 

leader speaks.) 

We that broke the walls 
And tore open the citadel of Asia, 
And the holy city of Priam like a gored ship 
Foundered in the roaring seas of our blood: 
We have sacked the empire of Death also. 
They planted strange seed in Asia who buried Achilles. 
The earth had received us and we broke the earth; 
The hands of God were upon us to hold us under; 
We broke the fingers of God and Fate; 
They planted wild seed in Asia who buried Achilles. 
When we camped in the dead 
Metropolis, we dead, there was nothing living but a wolf and 

a dog; 

The very swallows were burnt 
That used to twitter in the eaves of Troy. 
Where Priam and the silken processions 
Went delicately 

By the great hewn stones; in the morning 
We pissed on the stones and knew that we dead lived, 
And went south from there 
Fasting, until we came to a town and killed it. 
Punic ships lay on the shore. 

They planted strange seed in Asia who buried Achilles. 
Oh high blue water 

And whirling currents in the lee of islands, 
Purple nights and blue days, 
Were you not pierced, were you not trampled? 
Bear witness how his great heart burned you, 
Toward this woman he burned. 




Stand farther, soldiers. I cannot bear. . . . Oh Polyxo, save me. 

Though love is dead and friendship forgotten, 
The living should guard the living, and a woman ought to have 

pity on a woman . . . 

THE MYRMIDONS We beached at sundown 

And struck in the night, in the gathered storm. 
King Menelaus said "What are these?" 
And the spear-point was at his beard. 
"Dorian barbarians?" 
Look under the torches, Oh King, that flare in the wind in the 


Look under the torches. 

The Dorians have yellow hair; ours is earth-dark. 
The Dorians have black iron helmets, ours are green bronze. 
They planted strange seed in Asia who buried Achilles. 
Be silent, be silent! It is all true. There was only a little guard at 

Therapnac. Our troops were north 
On the borders, in the doors of the north. They took the high 

house and held Therapnae. The storm raged, and the thunder 
Shook the towers, while Achilles possessed me. It is true: he 

came and possessed me. His body was not like death- 
Only his eyes. 

THE MYRMIDONS We were the door-holders. 
Our master went in and laid off his armor, and the queen of 


Screamed once, and then sweetly smiled. 
The wild male power of the world 
Was mated with the perfect beauty. 
While Menelaus outside the gate 

Howled like a dog in the violet lightnings in the gaps of night 
For spears, but all his were fleeing to the mountain. 
And the Gods came down against us and we held the doors. 

You are not a rock but a woman: let me go in, let me go in! 
From public shame, and this furnace of eyes. 
POLYXO Menelaus died? 



HELEN Not that night. 

He did die, 

Of old age, the next day. ... I was compelled, undefended. 
POLYXO We are not 

blind, we can see you are beautiful 
Enough to have stung the body of a violent man in the very 

ashes. But I am a woman, and not 
A loving woman. Tell me, you dead and stationed soldiers, where 

is your master, this woman's lover? 
I desire not to offend him by ... any act toward this woman, 

if she is still claimed. We have no force 
In our pastoral island to oppose the power 
That humbled warlike Therapnae bristling with spears. 


a knife in your mind, but not too darkly 
For eyes that have looked through hollow death, and are whetted 

and disillusioned, nor too dreadful. We are charged 
To keep this woman whom our lord has enjoyed intact of any 

less lover until she dies. 
When she dies we may hasten home. 
HELEN Will you plot against me 

before my face? And vainly. I can pity delusion 
Even in dead men; whatever it is you would sell, she will not 

buy. My friend has grown cold, but not 
Wicked; not monstrous; one can see that without looking 

through hollow death. ... As to Achilles, 
7 will tell you, Polyxo. He went away from Therapnae in the 

stormy dawn, gathering his men, 
Only detaching these few to guard me. He returned to the 

ships; and one had been burned, he took one of ours; 
And sailed away to fetch west for the island Leuke, that white 

Atlantic splendor in the waves, to find there 
The peace, he said, that even the most beautiful woman never 

can give. For there one is free of death's 
Dreams as of life's. He will never return. I tell you because I 

trust you. 

POLYXO That is true. Whatever you've done, 

Your blood is noble. The free-born 



Trust gayly where a slave trembles. I have determined what 

I will do. 

HELEN Why are you trembling, Polyxo? 
We are not accustomed to seeing the dead land on this island. 

Come into the house. Come in. Let Helen 
Pass, but not those bronze corpses. 
THE LEADER OF THE MYRMIDONS We deliver her to you. 


woman trust her not! 
POLYXO Who spoke? 


I will go in without fear, although I think that you hate me for 

some reason. I'd not seek shelter 
In a house of cold welcome, but choice has been taken from me. 

The ship I came from goes home to black 
And quiet death. One endures a cold welcome liefer than death; 

I will lay down all pride 

And like a suppliant go in. But why do you tremble, Polyxo? 
POLYXO Surely with 

eagerness. My house is honored. 

Helen approaches the steps, and the spears part to let her 

pass. Calcho leans from among the spears and 'whispers as 

she passes in. 


Beautiful woman turn back. Look: her pressed lips mean evil. 

HELEN Thank you, fisherman. 

POLYXO What did that man 

Whisper across the trident? 

HELEN Why, nothing, dear. He would bring 

me a speckled sea-trout or a great lamprey. 
He thinks I am used to kindness. Oh, why do you tremble so? 
POLYXO The chill at 

sundown. Time brings all things. 

They go into the house. 
CALCHO Evil is planned. Shall we let the most beautiful woman 

in the world fall into a trap, while we stand idle? 
ONE OF THE MEN Well, it's a pity . . . 



ANOTHER You think our lady lays traps because she had you 
whipped once; but well you deserved it. 


Is there any stir in the house? 

Listen: or a cry? 

Farm-boys with spears, you sparrows 

Playing hawk, be silent. 

Splendid was life 

In the time of the heroes, the sun went helmeted, the moon was 


When glory gathered on Troy, the picketed horses 
Neighed in the morning, and long live ships 
Ran on the wave like eagle-shadows on the slopes of mountains. 
Then men were equal to things, the earth was beautiful, the 

crests of heroes 
Waved as tall as the trees. 

Now all is decayed, all corrupted, all gone down. 
Men move like mice under the shadows of trees, 
And the shadows of the tall dead. 
The brightness of fire is dulled, 
The heroes are gone. 
In naked shame Agamemnon 
Died of a woman. 

The sun is crusted and the moon tarnished, 
And Achilles has chosen peace. 

Tell me, you island spearmen, you plowboy warriors, 
Has anyone cried out in the dark door? 
Not yet. The earth darkens. 

Slate gray twilight has come; but later a high cloud catching 

light fills the scene with a confusing red radiance. 
At the fall of an age men must make sacrifice 
To renew beauty, to restore strength. 
We say that if the perfect beauty were sacrificed, 
The very beauty that makes our death-cleansed eyes 
Dazzle with tears, would be spread on the sky 
And earth like a banner. 
All men would begin to desire again, and value 
Come back to the earth, and splendor walk there. 



There is one perfection to be poured out, one lonely beauty 

Left in the world, as lonely as the last eagle. 

Has anyone groaned in the house? There it sounds. 

A sharp clear broken-off cry like a snapped arrow. 


Dead wolves, will her death feed you? 

THE MYRMIDONS Our trade was death. 

And now we have known it, it is nothing evil. 

CALCHO Can we endure this? 

He and a few others are going up the steps, when Polyxo 

comes out and stands above. 
POLYXO Clear the stones. 

Armed men are at her side; Calcho and his few -followers 

return down. 
POLYXO You need not press in, you shall see all. I have caught 

the panther. 
Oh men of Rhodes, we sometimes exclaim against the great gods, 

when the guilty seem to flourish, and the innocent 
Fall unavenged. We are always rebuked at last. A murderer may 

flee to Caucasus but the broad eyes 
Hardly turn and behold him constantly, and see the knife 

whetting or the noose hanging, in the very gorge 
He runs to hide in, under the snow-shining walls and towers of 

the world. Do you remember my lord 
Tlepolemus, the husband of my soul and my body? I have caught 

his murderer. Numberless thousands have died 
By the war-making act of this one woman, the powers of Greece 

and the house of Priam; they are not perfectly 
Important to us here enisled, but Righteousness counted them; 

and while I avenge Tlepolemus the gods are here 
Avenging all. I have two black men I bought from Egypt, whose 

minds are not made like ours, they feel 
No shudder where a Greek would flinch; I bid them lead forth 

the murderess, so stripped and shamed as men who were 


On the plain by Troy ... as Tlepolemus . . . 
Ah Ah ... was robbed 



Of the hacked and dinted armor ... all ... that corselet I 

gave him: in the days when I was able to weep, 
And prayed it keep safe his breast; the Greeks retreated from his 

body fallen in the dust, and grooms and foot-soldiers 
Despoiled and stripped him, and left him naked under the glaring 

lion of heaven and the Trojan eyes, 
White flower in the foul dust, the body I had held in my arms, 

the flesh that my mouth had clung to. ... Shall I not 
Shame this dead woman? . . . Come. 

Helen is led by slaves from the door, her hands bound behind 

her back. The confusing red twilight somewhat veils her 

nakedness. Her head is held high, and the eyes clear, though 

she struggles against the bonds, breathing hard through 

parted lips. Her yellow hair is disordered, and hangs like a 

heavy fleece on one shoulder. 
HELEN (straining at the cords) Are you the stronger? Yet 

wretched to the end of time: 
Contempt and a hissing: whilst I overcome by treachery am 

more than equal to all that may hurt me. 

Is what made war. Look at it, because it will not be beautiful 

to-morrow. No warriors will quarrel for it. 
No one will cut through death to come to it. Now, now, I say, 

the old aching hatred, the very bitterness 
That fouled my wine with aloes and stained my meat with spilt 

gall, morning and evening all the empty years, 
Is turned sweet; it is better to taste than honey; it smells more 

lovely than myrrh and frankincense 
Hot from the south. You caught panther! 
I am glad that you were a queen in haughty Therapnae; it will 

be harder to die; I am glad you are beautiful 
Beyond fault, beyond nature: the ridiculous ugliness of death 

and corruption look the more dreadful to you; 
I am glad you had many lovers, you will lie alone; I am glad time 

could not touch you nor age deflower you, 
That your beauty is like the African crystal no point can scratch, 

unwoundable, uncontaminable; 
For what comes now shall very suddenly unpolish it. Ah, Ah, Ah, 



I am sick with delight. Call the black ravens, you beautiful 

Oh Helen, black crows and heavy-beaked ravens to be your 

lovers, to kiss your eyes. Call the mountains 
Of Asia to look at you. 
HELEN Rhodians: your mistress you see has 

gone mad, you must prevent her not for my sake, 
For your own honor from making this place forever abominable. 
POLYXO (to a slave) Cast the rope over that branch. 
I shall sleep sound at last, who have lain year after year tortured 

remembering. To-morrow, coming 
From the door at dawn, I shall see my enemy's face puffed 

purple and her breasts blackening, and the dragged neck 
Not like a dove's, and those fine white feet 
Perhaps all shrivelled, perhaps all swollen, who knows? God, 

who sent her here, knows. Why do you wait? 
Fling the coil, slave, keep the noose in your hands. Hup! A good 

cast. I shall not sleep, but call 
Torches, and feast all night. 
HELEN I see my dark shameful death. Hear 

me, Rhodians . . . 
POLYXO Let her speak, haltered. 

The slave makes to hang the noose on her neck, but when 

she looks at him he stands back in awe of her. 


We cannot suffer this. Oh Oh Oh. 
Spear the black men, hang up the old woman. 
Pikes and fire, ah? Like spitted pigs. We dare. 
They move toward the steps. 


I thought that you herd of dogs and peasants . . . Here, the 
guard. Peasants: here are the men 

Who fought at Troy, men to be trusted, my house garrison. 
Fully armed soldiers, old men but dangerous, move mechan- 
ically in two files from the door, right and left of the group 
formed by POLYXO and HELEN and the slaves, and make a 
fence of spears at the foot of the steps. They are masked with 



identical faces of old grim 'warriors; between them and the 
Myrmidons the island militia, seethe like a rabble. 

POLYXO Rabble, you 

know your boundary: the soldiers 

Of Tlepolemus. Few, but enough. These will not lust for a har- 
lot. These are the men that saw 

The gods fighting, when the rivers of the plain flowed fire and 
the earth roared like water. . . . Veterans of Troy: 

It is mine to avenge your labor and pain and your leader's death; 
it is yours to keep those plowboys in awe 

And herd those herdsmen. 


Old men you ought to have died 

In your good years, not wearily 

Gone home to rust. 

If you had died and revived again 

Your hair would not be snowed under but brown as ours, 

And your eyes as fierce. 

POLYXO (to the slave) I said, halter that woman. Between the 

dead and the living my hatred stands, 
Will you stand and let me be slain, you men of Rhodes? 


What, is life sweet? Cry out. Weep publicly. Show all your 

mind, make all your grief like your body naked. 
Surely it is all as beautiful as your body, and I shall be merciful. 


It is beautiful to see men die by violence, but to watch a woman 

Killed, is the crown. Oh Queen, die boldly. 

HELEN I pray you on my knees, Polyxo. 

Life is too dear to be spent on pride. I am not afraid, but I love 


POLYXO I tell you, kneeling's 
Not half enough. You must act fear, if you feel none. Plead, 


Helen stands again, and 'wrenches at the cords, twisting her 




THE MYRMIDONS (coming nearer the house, pressing on the de- 
moralized crowd) 

Queen, life and death are no better than the two ears of a carrion- 
Battening dog; there is nothing to choose. 

We know them both, and their beauty is beyond them, their 
beauty is the value, 

As yours is your beauty. We also were sacrificed. 


Dead wolves, fight for me. Save me. You could blow down this 
brittle stubble of Rhodian spears like summer 

Fire in the stubble. Flash your fangs, wolves. Fight, you bronze 
wolves. For I have the seed of Achilles in me. 

For your lord, for your leader's blood, not for me make war. 


Beautiful blossoms of battle again and forever unfolding 

Star the earth, but we dropped petals of one 

Shall endure peace, not even to behold them again nor to hear 


In the quiet places, in enormous neutrality. 
Oh perfectly beautiful, pain is brief, endure to be sacrificed. 
This great age falls like water and a new 

Age is at birth, but without your pain it could never be beautiful. 
The golden fleece of your hair, the straining 
Shoulders, the dove-throat, the breasts thrust forward by the 

strain of bonds, 

Shall yield their beauty to the earth and sky, 
The wonderful breasts their soul to all the flushed hills of earth, 
The long white thighs to the marble mountains. 
Mycenae is down in corruption but Athens will stand instead, 
The Dorians will make Laconia a land of helots. 

Dogs, not wolves. Death-whipped dogs. Hear me, veterans 
Of Rhodes, old valiant warmen that fought in Asia from the 

wall I watched you. . . . No help, no help anywhere? 
I am brought to bay here between the bony mercy of unmanned 

old age and the eyeless pity of the dead. 
Do you see this ebony tool of murder hangs the halter on my 

throat, the strangling death? 



POLYXO Helen: 

Speak quickly, for your end hastens. 

HELEN I will speak. I have lived 

and seen the great beauty of things, and been loved and 

If now I must die, it is come. Nothing on earth nor in ocean is 

hatefuller than death; at least I have not 
Wasted my life like this gray murderess, fouling with age, lying 

twenty years in the pit of time 
Grinding the rust on a knife. 
POLYXO Take for your portion agony and 

shame. Sweep room there below, guardsmen. 
Haul, slaves. May all that cause war, thus perish. ... It is dark; 

torches, torches! People of Rhodes, we have caught 
And hanged a panther. Pelt the white body with pine cones, pelt 

it with clods. 

While she is hanged, confused struggle in the brown twilight 

between the old guardsmen and the people. The Myrmidons, 

chanting in their pacing dance, take no part in it. 


Wild swan, splendid-bodied, 

Silent at last, silent and proud, fly up the dark. 

Clash bronze, beat shields, beauty is new-born. 

It is not to be whispered in Argos that Helen died like a woman, 

Nor told in Laconia that sickness killed her. 

Strike swords, blade on blade, the daughter of God 

Hangs like a lamp, high in the dark, quivering and white. 

The breasts are thrust forward and the head bows, the fleece of 

Shakes on the straining shoulders, writhes to the long white 

When God looked down from heaven the mound in the Troad 

Swarmed like an anthill, what spears are those? 

Power that will pierce your people, God of the living, 

The warrior-ants of the anthill, the spears from the dark bar- 
row . . . 
Torches are being brought from the house. 



Look under the torches, Oh King, that flare in the wind of night, 

Look under the torches. 

No Dorians are we; they planted strange seed in Asia who buried 


Power to pierce death, helmeted heads cracking the grass-roots, 
Power to be born again. 
Come down and behold us Oh King of heaven and Oh hawks of 


Come down and behold us, 

You African lions in the tawny wilderness roar in the storm, 
For our master is joined with the beauty he remembered in 

death, with the splendor of the earth, 
While the King of Laconia howls like a starved dog 
In the rain, in the violet lightnings, in the gaps of night, and we 

hold the gates. 

Polyxo comes between torch-bearers to exult. 
High violent wind let the tree stand, leave me my vengeance. 

Slaves, hold the flaring torches up high; 
I can see a hanging whiteness in the wind and smoke. She ought 

to be hideous now? How beautiful she is. 
Hair veils the face. Where is my triumph? I am very happy. 

The high wind swings her slowly spinning 
As if to show all her beauty. I did not wantonly, Oh beautiful 

woman; my need compelled me. I have done 
More than I dared; I have put my pain outside me; it is time to 

exult. White mountains, ice-helmeted peaks 
That wall the ends of the world, come here and behold my 

triumph. Where is my triumph, has the wind snatched it? 
There is no woman on earth so happy as I am, having slain my 

pain: yet it seems that all present things 
Slip away down hill, and I could weep for them. 
CALCHO (coming behind her in the darkness and confusion) 

Old woman, 

revenge is a slippery fish. This from Calcho. 

He drives the trident into her side, and tries to escape. One 

of the guard strikes him doivn. Polyxo has groaned and fallen 

on the steps. 



THE MYRMIDONS (who have not ceased from their pacing dance) 

Roar in the night, storm, like a lion, spare not the stars. 

They have planted wild seed in the air who lifted God's 

Daughter on high, wavering aloft, blessing the new 

Age at birth with the beauty of her body . . . 

POLYXO (slowly, gasping) 

Three spears? that fish-spear ah, ah, like a shark or tunny. 

Drag . . . the points, black man, the barbed points, out. 
Ah. Ah. Ah. No. Their claws catch in my entrails; her death was 

kinder. What whiteness 
Wavers up there over fires and anguish? Rhodes: I have no 

son . . . 
THE MYRMIDONS (turning and going back by the way they 


All is accomplished. Islanders, gather the slain. 
Seed has been planted in Asia, seed in Therapnae, 
High in the dark, seed for the white eagles of dawn. 
For us the black ship on the shore, for us the black waters, the 


Hollow of the mound. Heavily beat, bronze upon bronze. 
Clash, bronze; beat, shields; beauty is new-born. 

The flame is blown from the torches by the violent wind. 



The story is derived from the closing chapters of the Volsung 
Saga, the action of which refers itself to a date fairly correspond- 
ent with the end of the Greco-Roman age and the beginning of 
this one. 

The theme of self-contradiction and self-frustration, in Gud- 
run's nature, intends to express a characteristic quality of this 
culture-age, which I think should be called the Christian age, for 
it is conditioned by Christianity, and except a few centuries' 
lag concurrent with it. Its civilization is the greatest, but also 
the most bewildered and self-contradictory, the least integrated, 
in some phases the most ignoble, that has ever existed. All these 
qualities, together with the characteristic restlessness of the age, 
its energy, its extremes of hope and fear, its passion for discovery, 
I think are bred from the tension between its two poles, of 
Western blood and superimposed Oriental religion. This is the 
tension that drew taut the frail arches of Gothic cathedrals, as 
now it spins the frail cosmogonies of recent science and the 
brittle Utopias of economic theory. This tension is really the 
soul of the age, which will begin to die when it ceases. In modern 
times the direction of the tension has shifted a little; the Christian 
faith is becoming extinct as an influence, compensatorily the 
Christian ethic becomes more powerful and conscious, manifest- 
ing itself as generalized philanthropy, liberalism, socialism, com- 
munism, and so forth. But the tension is relaxed, the age prepares 
for its long decline. The racial pole is weakened by the physical 
and especially the spiritual hybridization that civilized life always 
brings with it; the Christian pole is undergoing constant attrition! 
steadily losing a little more than it gains. 

I believe that we live about the summit of the wave of this age, 
and hence can see it more objectively, looking down toward the 
troughs on both sides, than our ancestors could or our more re- 
mote descendants will. . . . Is it necessary to add that I am not 
speaking as one of the prophets? These are only ideas that came 
to me while I was writing what follows, when I wondered "Why 



does Gudrun act this way?" Thence they added themselves to 
the thought of the poem, and are noted here to explain one 
tendency of its thought. The others seem clear enough. 

When the north and the east crawled with armed tribes to- 
ward mindless wars, 

Barbarians like a shieldful of knives flung random, clashing to- 
gether, stabbing, gashing or missing 

Through the north darkness, Goth, Hun and Vandal, Saxon and 
Frank, and down the hopeless frontiers of Rome: 

Three men leading three hundred came to the edge of the forest 
to a murdered farm. Hoegni said laughing, 

"Hey for the owner!" And Gunnar: "Ay. He hangs there." For a 
haltered man 

Hung in the oak above the fire-crumbled walls. "This is the 
place she named to us: the dead man's farm, 

A hill over a plain, a hanged man, a choked well, a stream at the 
hill-foot. Let them drop the gear." 

But Hoegni: "I say go on," jutting his chin to the south, the sharp 
yellow beard, 

"We'll meet the sooner. Aah, camp here waiting 

While they loot Gaul?" "Wolf-eagerness is a treasure in war- 
riors, caution in kings," answered Gunnar, 

Called king for being the head of a little clan between the Saxons 
and Franks; his eyes were royal 

Over the thick brown beard, deep and ice-blue, dark-browed, 
"If Gudrun comes, and gives bonds and promises, 

Yet I shall probably turn you back and lead home. I am not in 
love with letting my naked face 

Into the bear's mouth." His brother Hoegni groaned and laughed 
but not spoke. Then Carling his youngest brother, 

A boy still, beardless, brave face, wide eyes, bright hair: "I shall 
not turn. Look, brother, how it is clouded 

With herds of horses like a summer heaven, clouds beyond 
clouds, I never saw anything nor heard a poem 

So beautiful as this plain. 



Yonder must be the Horde's encampment: like a hundred cities: 

and the horses, the horses, the many-colored, 
At pasture around it like a vast wheel. There, there, and there, 

are the towers of smoke from the burnt towns. 
Yonder a band of war-men far off goes galloping on some great 

raid. Sigurd had a horse; 
He called him Grayfell." Gunnar said: "Listen, boy. You shall 

have horses to ride if we go down there. 

But Sigurd is not to be named. Sigurd is not to be named. Re- 
member we are making peace with Gudrun, 
Who is our sister, and has grown powerful too." Hoegni laughed, 

Carling said, "I know. It is a pity. 
Oh Gunnar it seems to me that my spirit, 
After the close fields and forest at home, flies towering up to 

the sun like a noon eagle 

Above this plain, the space the distance, the immense green free- 
dom glimmering to blue: as if I could almost 
See Rome from here." Hoegni said, "Live and we'll see it; if those 

Goths have left anything. Meanwhile we'll feed. 
They'll have to hack firewood from the owner's oak, it's all that's 

left him. He will not care." "Oh Hoegni!" Carling 
Answered, "Oh Gunnar! When Gudrun comes and we've dearly 

greeted her, then let us 
Not seek the Hun's camp nor friendship with him, but suddenly 

help ourselves to keen horses and alone together 
Go and see Italy. 
Oh Gunnar! that would be the high path for heroes, no talk, no 

alliances. I know Sigurd would do it 
If he were living. Ride southward like a pointed storm of wild 

swans, like a flying lance-head, an axe-head, 
Carve our own valley through the Huns and Romans." "What 

a pity," Hoegni said, 

"To be a fool at sixteen. I warned you Gunnar, 
Leave Fool at home." "A flight of horsemen," the youth said 

gladly, "this way. Oh look, Oh the lovely fellowship, 
Like a long arrow burning with dust for smoke." "You have 

young eyes. Ay. 



That will be Gudrun. How many?" He answered, "They ride by 
fours, less or more. Some ten ranks: forty perhaps." 

"Hardskin and Swayn," Gunnar said. "Ay," they answered, 
"Patrol the wood-path until I call you. 

You east and he west. 

Not to be embraced from behind as well. She left us in white 
anger, I will not trust her yet." 


Gudrun dismounted and came to her brothers; tall, blonde and 
pale, clad in a wine-dark gold-threaded 

Wide cloak, snatch of some Byzantine altar, sweetly smiling 
came Gudrun; a black-haired slave-woman, 

A face like white wax, walked at her side; on the other a 
swarthy sword-wearing Hun, who scowled and spoke. 

Two more behind him watched hard under slant brows. Then 
Gudrun: "Dear brothers! Gunnar: will you bid your men 

Go ten steps back? Timor here . . . this dark-browed battle- 

Is Timor, he is lofty in my lord's attendance. My three brothers, 
Timor. He is full of safeguards, being as he says 

Accountable for the priceless treasure of my person. 

GUNNAR (waving his men back) Well, sister. Twenty. 

GUDRUN My Timor is very faithful, 

And fears . . . never death . . . torture. Can that be Carling? 
Oh my dear, Carling, how beautiful you have grown! 

I always loved you. 

GUNNAR We were most happy, Gudrun, 

In your dear message. Jealousies die but love is immortal. We 
have come at great pains through the wet woods 

Only to see your face. I say only, 

Because it is certain that we are wealthy enough 

Without Hunnish alliances. Our thought in coming is toward 
you only; to see the loved face, salute 

The dear lips, and return. 

HOEGNI And ask you how it feels to be mar- 

ried to a toad, for every man told us 



Huns look like toads: and by God it's true. Pop eyes, no noses, 

toad color . . . 
GUDRUN Hoegni! 

Be wary of your words a little. 
HOEGNI Not /. 

GUNNAR As to the precious gather- 

ings of Gaul and Italy: what's gold? 
We came for love's sake. 

GUDRUN (to Hoegni) He understands it well enough, 
Though for scorn he won't speak it. 
HOEGNI Tim Timy you mean? 

For scorn you say? I am telling you . . . 
GUDRUN Understand me, 

Hoegni. My lord and his race are not mocked. The emperor of 

northern and middle Europe, all from the Caspian 
To the North Sea. 

HOEGNI Not a toad? Nose-holes 

Where a nose ought to be ... 
GUDRUN And soon I believe to conquer 

and rule the whole nation-written 
War-weary tablet, all the king-scarred earth. 
HOEGNI Not me. . . . That 

is a marvelous piece of a victory 

Worn on your shoulders, Gudrun. Well, you look young still. 
GUDRUN And for gold: look at these 

Bracelets that bruise my arms; and this neck-chain. 
HOEGNI Oh, he loads 

you. Save up, save up, 
Lest winter come. 
GUDRUN The chain's for King Gunnar. No: I pray 

you, brother, take it with my love. Though I was bitter, 
That was quite long ago. And now I live among foreigners . . . 
GUNNAR How your lips writhe! 

Don't cry, my dear, 
I'll not refuse it nor the love either, but joyfully. . . . Let me 

kiss you Gudrun, why do you cover your face? 
I'll kiss the tears. 



GUDRUN It was caught in my hair. There. You've a 

tress with it. Ah, Gunnar, 
Little you know! 
GUNNAR Dear sister. I am far more glad that our love 

is born again 

Than for all these great links of gold. 
GUDRUN And for my . . . brother 

Hoegni, these . . . 
HOEGNI Don't do it 

If it hurts you so. You're white as death, 
GUDRUN I remember you used to call me that. We were near 

the same age. 

HOEGNI But now those blue eyes of yours 
Have wolves in 'em. 
GUDRUN The better to see you with, dear! Well, 

I've been through . . . and seen stark battles: but if 
These eyes grow hard: not toward my brothers, Hoegni. By- 
gones are by-gones, that wound's hid . . . healed I mean. 
You never knew me to lie I believe? So take the bracelets. I guess 

them nearly the weight in gold 
Of Gunnar's chain. 

HOEGNI Thank you, Gudrun. I wish to do you some- 

time a worthy service. Why, men 

Have fought to death for less than a hundredth fraction 
Of this heavy glitter. 
GUDRUN It's nothing: we swim in it. Carling dear: 

I've something ... I find myself 
Wet-eyed to look at you. 
Because you were much younger than me and Hoegni. . . . I'm 

not false, I'll hide no thought, if you'd been tall 
At that time, I believe you'd have helped me. Who knows? 

Hush, dear, let me dream. This is very vain talk 
About an old woe. The snows of that year are melted and so is 

my heart, and I am Attila's wife. 

You look like ghosts, ah? All but Carling. Oh, it's wiped out. 
I thought you, Carling, too noble-minded . . . young I should 

say ... to care about gold, and so have chosen you 



A steel jewel, only a sword, yet a rare one. Give it to me, Jukka. 

(She takes it from one of the dark 'warriors behind her.) It 

is said there were great enamel-workers 
And godlike smiths in Gaul before the back-and-forth grovellings 

and wash of war 
Wiped out all. 
CARLING Oh Gudrun! What are these gems? Why, the 

hawk-head hilt 
Is like a firebrand. 
GUDRUN The blade, the blade. The hilt's nothing, a 

gem-crust. Nor the scabbard either. See 

How cunningly they let the delicate-colored threads of enamel 
Into the fierce blank steel. 
CARLING Oh Gudrun. 

GUDRUN Hawk or eagle the pretty 

tracery, who cares? It's pretty, ah? 
I begged it of my lord when he was merry. 
CARLING I cannot tell you. 

. . . Oh Gudrun. 

GUNNAR By God, what a smith. I think 
You've the best, brother, (to Hoegni, quietly , nodding toward 

the oak) I don't like those two, the ravens. 
HOEGNI Mm? Those? 

Children of nature, attracted by meat like you and me. They 

take the eyes first. 

GUNNAR Caw caw, damn them! 

Though they're God's birds. Is she true? 
HOEGNI It's true gold. 

CARLING (admiring the sword) Oh Gudrun, 

the beauty, the power, the balance! And as for the edge: 
Look at my thumb: I barely touched it to feel it. 
GUDRUN Oh, Oh, my gift! 


I love the slight cut. 
I think it's magical: see, I streak my own blood on the silky 

blade, that makes it mine for my life-days 
Faithfully. Oh sister, I'll do such deeds with it ... some deed 

for the poets to remember in all the fire-lit music-filled 



Evenings of rime. Sigurd's great beautiful bone-biter, the sword 
That he called Anger, never did such a deed . . . Oh! . . . 

I didn't mean, I didn't want . . . 
I adore his memory. 

GUDRUN I know, dear. Hush, Hoegni, let 

him alone. We may love Sigurd and yet 
Not hate his ... killers. He was too great to need any memory 

but thoughts of love ... to need any 
Reprisal. His fame's not slain. . . . What'll you call the sword, 


CARLING I thought of calling him 
Sea-eagle. Ah Sea-eagle you'll fly in Rome, 
You'll dazzle the south. 

ONE OF GUNNAR'S MEN (shouting from a distance) 
Troop of horse, a long one. 
ANOTHER From the west by the wood's edge. 
HARDSKIN (farther off) A thousand horse. 
HOEGNI Bitten, by God. (Gunnar and Hoegni draw sword, so 

do the Huns.) 
GUNNAR I will never believe, Gudrun, no never. 

. . . Timor: we are here 
As friends, probable allies . . . 
HOEGNI Baited and trapped, 

with a yellow glitter 
And milky talk, (shouting) Stand to it. Ham-string'em, that 

stops'em. (to Timor) . . . Well? 
Toad? Let's begin. 

GUDRUN (cuffing her slave-woman, who was about to scream) 
You are too excitable, you shame me red, 

brothers, before 
These quiet dark lords of the East. Those are the horses to mount 

you. Each man of that troop leads a spare horse. 
And thus you trust me! I could not allow you to walk, you and 

your people, 
To die Emperor's camp. 
GUNNAR Ay? why do they come from behind 

and cut us off from the wood? 



GUDRUN They come from the pasture. 

GUNNAR So it takes five hundred men 

To bring us mounts? 

GUDRUN For your escort also. There's rough work 

On the plain. 

GUNNAR There'd be rougher 

If my poor woodsmen forked themselves over horses. 

No, Gudrun. 

GUDRUN The Huns despise you if you come walking. 

GUNNAR Are we your prisoners? 

GUDRUN Why, brother! 

GUNNAR No? Then 

farewell, Gudrun. 

We carry back to the great fir-woods, the lonely tarns 
And little clearings, magnificent memories 
Of wealth and kingly splendor and kindness, and a sister's great 
Forgiving heart. 

HOEGNI And toads. . . . Come home with us, 

We'll make you queen of the North. 

CARLING Oh. I want to ride with her. 

GUDRUN But since I ... love you, my brothers: how could 

I let you go? I'd even keep you 
By force. You see: by force . . . 
Of loving persuasion. I could hardly persuade my Huns 
To let such warriors as you . . . not join the Horde. 
Gunnar: he will conquer the whole world, there's not a doubt: 
All the wealth, all rings of gold, all tribes of men, all the meat 

and drink: 

It rolls to his feet like a ball. . . . Hoegni: 
Do you love battles? 

HOEGNI In moderation, in moderation. 

GUDRUN This would 

be out of scale for you, then. 
Now the great crowning battle of the world is making, to 

dazzle all war 
Before and after, will be fought on this plain within three days. 

For Rome has bandaged all her sick legions 


Into one sword, ransacked her waning moon for man-power, 

and bought peace with the West Goths 
(Whose king Theodoric is eight feet tall) to try odds against 

us. They have joined the two armies like axe and helve 
For one huge stroke. Their last one. 

HOEGNI Is Caesar a tall man too? 

GUDRUN Which Caesar? 

None fights. They've an active general, 
What's his name? I can't think. They are hundreds of thousands 

together, and ours are three hundred thousand, with the 

East Goths, 

Vandals, Gepidae, Franks . . . 
HOEGNI Boo, said the goose 

Counting duckweed. 

HOEGNI Tell it to the Swedes, not to us. 

GUNNAR No, no, we don't doubt 
Your good faith, sister: yet there's a dreamy quality 
About these numberings of multitude. How could such hordes 

be fed? 

GUDRUN Ours, are experienced. 
They tap their horses' neck- veins and suck the blood, then stop 

the wound and ride on. Or a man's at a pinch, 
Ah, Timor? The Goths and Romans I imagine starve. . . . Oh, 

Meeting will exceed all measure, enormous, a sword-mountain: 

you'll stay and see it? And, Carling, after we force them 
For the sun will fall out of heaven before Attila 
Fails of a victory the whole fragrant south will lie open, un- 
locked and helpless, all the sun, all the honey, 
Rich gardens, rare fruits, all kinds of artist-work. We'll ride on 

the golden strands of blue seas and drink nothing 
But purple wine, hear nothing but little Greek slaves 
That sing like nightingales. 

GUNNAR Will you swear by the holiest, 

By Woden hanged on tree; and by all the Gods of the Huns too, 

and all other Gods, 
That you mean well by us? 



GUDRUN I cannot imagine why you mistrust 


SUNNAR Will you swear? 
GUDRUN Why should I? You have no choice. 
And you mistrust me vilely. And what are the Gods, who sees 

them? My Huns have travelled the whole world and now 
Laugh at the Gods. Yes, I will swear. 
GUNNAR By Woden hanged on 

the tree? 

GUDRUN Oh, clearly. And by all the Huns' Gods, 

And the Roman Christ. 

GUNNAR You will be sick and die 

If you break oath. Well, Hoegni? 
HOEGNI I want to see old Hardskin 

straddling a horse, that's what I want. 
CARLING They'll go. Oh Gud- 

run how beautiful you look. One to stand shining 
And sworded for the Decider of Battles in the eagle sky 
In the poem that I've been making. 

GUDRUN Do you make poems, Carling? 

CARLING Things are so beautiful. Your face, like a white sword 
Lifting against the blue. I'll make better ones. 
GUDRUN Sing me a poem 

While we ride down. I need it. Life narrows on me, 
All its events are vicious, whichever I choose. 


In front of the curtains. Sentinels post themselves in the midst. 
Men enter and stand conversing at the extreme right. Gudrun and 
her brothers, her slave Chrysothemis, and the Hun Jukka, come 
in from the left. 
GUNNAR . . . The pastures are wide and rich, yet all the grass 

is bitten to the roots. What was that river we forded? 
GUDRUN I told you. The Marne. We have to wait here until 

the trumpet is blown; no one may enter before Attila. 
HOEGNI I wish him joy of it. 
GUNNAR Marne; the Marne. What a language. Hoegni: did you 

notice the herd of thick-flanked brood-mares? I believe there 



were at least two thousand. These things are out of our scale 

of thought. 
GUDRUN This building is an old broken place, curtained for the 

feast. The broken country-house of some dead Roman. The 

curtains look richly purple in the evening sun, don't they, 

Carling? If blood would keep its color, what a dye. And 

CARLING Does he not come to bring you in? As I remember 

Sig . . . I remember Sigurd used to? 
GUNNAR Tell me, sister: what do they do when their mares 

foal on the march? 

GUDRUN (impatient) Ah! Another time. Ask Jukka. 
GUNNAR I have asked him a number of questions, he only 

gabbles. It is essential for a ruler to understand . . . 
GUDRUN Will you ... I am trying to make a quietness in my 

HOEGNI Yes. I have watched you, Gudrun. You are mad with 

You think you have married the mountain of the world. Sigurd 

was not enough . . . 

GUNNAR By the honor of God, brother! 

Keep the peace, will you? 
HOEGNI Aahh . . . 

GUDRUN I'll tell you plainly then. 

I am ill in my mind. 
Pride? No: hardly. I was proud while Sigurd lived, before you 

killed him, but as things are 
I've won back a little . . . power . . . not pride. Perhaps you 

will be able to tell me, being wise, Gunnar, 
Why it is that I. For it seems that I still love you, for all your. 

I am not able. We're the one blood, 
And were gay when we were little together, 
Yet, when the warmth wins, I remember that yours was the 

cold contemptible mind that planned his death 
Because your woman wound you up to be envious. And the 

cynical hand 


Was my brother Hoegni's. And how cowardly it was done. 

HOEGNI (handling his sword-hilt) 

I guessed you. Bring on your niggers. 

GUNNAR You are bound by the highest and most dangerous of 
oaths, Gudrun. 

GUDRUN (impassively) So that my heart is in heavy trouble be- 
tween love and hatred. 

Two snakes in one coil. Which can neither endure nor destroy 
each other, but each is swollen to bursting with venom 

From the other's jaws, it spurts on my heart. Ah? Well? . . . 
Well, that's how it is wi' me. 

I was saying, to do you a harm would never make Sigurd live, 
nor be any comfort to myself, so breathe easily. Carling's 
a poet: do you think killed men want justice, Carling? Don't 
answer. I think they're nothing, they're lucky. I believe 

After you've travelled and seen ten thousand corpses 

You'll keep your poems in the way of nature. 

GUNNAR Indeed, sister, these questions about death are mys- 
teries to all of us; it is wisest perhaps . . . 

GUDRUN The men with the red straps wound to the knees are 
East-Goth nobles. That tall man, who is talking to the Hun, 
is Alberic the Frank. Yonder are two lords of the Gepidae. 
I love to see kings cooling their heels at my husband's 

GUNNAR And those to the left, Gudrun? 

GUDRUN Huns. Don't question me! I am not patient. 

A TRUMPETER appears between the parting curtains. He sounds 
the trumpet, and announces in Htmnish and in Gothic: 

The Lord of Lords has taken his seat. The Masters of War have 
taken their seats. 

HOEGNI The Toads have squatted. 

The curtains draw aside, and they enter. 


It is the atrium of a ruined Roman country -house. The walls at 
this end are broken down; the wall seen slant on the left is ar- 
caded with freestone columns, the near ones broken, the farther 



entire. Strange guests have stopped here since the owner fled. 
The wall at the back has no colonnade but is adorned with wall- 
paintings; the panels to left and right indistinguishable, the great 
central painting scarred but clear. It represents Prometheus bound 
on Mt. Elboros, the snow-veined rocks, the wound and the 

Planks on trestles range parallel to the walks, making an L-shaped 
table. On the far limb of the (inverted) L, below the colossal 
Prometheus, Attila is seated among his generals. He is swarthy, 
thick, gray-haired, with a flat Mongolian face, and robed in bar- 
barian magnificence. He is already feeding and drinking. 

Gudrun will take a place near the angle of the L, keeping Car- 
ling on her right, allowing Gunnar to sit on her left, toward Attila 
and beside Timor. Gudrwts slave stands behind her. Hoegni sits 
between Carting and Jukka. The other guests, Huns, Ostrogoths 
and so forth, are coming in and finding places, and servants 
are busy. 

GUDRUN (standing at her place) My lord. . . . My lord. 
ATTILA (at length turning his face toward her) All right? 
GUDRUN This is King Gunnar, my brother, of whom I spoke. 

And my other brothers. 
ATTILA Mm. Welcome, (turning back to one of the Huns) 

I say if Arval fails taking Troyes as he slacked at Orleans, 

that is the end for him. 
GUNNAR Noble Attila: 
Our sister having by message invited us 
We come with clear good will and kingly confidence 
To behold her face, and yours, and the glory of the Horde. 
She has flown high, she was nourished in a high nest. 
We have strong places northward and power of warriors, 
Though fewer . . . horses, I believe . . . 
And not as a guest from wandering, but as the king 
Your brother-in-law, retinued with quiet swords . . . 
ATTILA (turning and staring) Hm? 

GUNNAR We acknowledge your hospitality. 
ATTILA Well, well. 

Sit down. I remember she spoke of you. 
HEOGNI (aloud) Toad of toads. 


GUNNAR But as 

for alliance, 

And to ride with your host . . . 
ATTILA Jukka! Converse with him for 

me. (turning to Blada, who sits next him) So you'll sweep 

the banners around their loose end, curl it up and cut for the 

center: the plain is wide. 
BLADA Ay, Master. They'll have reserve, I must have more 

weight than can be delayed . . . 
JUKKA (to Gunnar) He say he ver' glad you here. 
GUNNAR He seems a laconic man. Between kings, courtesy 

should be religion. 
HOEGNI Whisper, Gudrun. How does it feel? They say the 

Black Forest women have to do wi' wolves, but a toad, my 

God! Have you got warts? 
GUDRUN Do not tempt me . . . 
JUKKA (to Gurmar) He make plan 'bout . . . big fighting. 

Soon he drink more, then make speech to you maybe. 
GUDRUN . . . toward a black duty. I have what I sought in 

marriage, that's power. I am not hardened yet 
To its uses. . . . Oh Oh, Carling, I wish I had died with him. 
There were blue campions around him beside the spring, 
All changed in color, his blood had filled all their cups. 
I wish the wet red earth sweet with young flowers 
Had swallowed my life with Sigurd's, for I am not strong enough 

to be his avenger. (Nothing, Jukka, 
Oh nothing: an old feud of our tribe.) Gunnar: 
Look down the table, you see the three boys beyond Blada and 

They are sons of Attila. He has no other male relatives, for he 

killed his brothers, it is their custom. These fresh boys will 

cut each other's throats when the time comes. 
You'll leave early to-morrow, I shall arrange it. 
Tell Hoegni . . . tell Hoegni his hand . . . was crueller than 

mine. Carling: 
Stay with me? 
CARLING I long to. You are good and beautiful, and here 

is the main door of the world. ... I am Gunnar's man. 



GUDRUN Because I am lonely and hate myself. And though this 

camp-life is always dangerous, and has no root 
In nature, nothing but wars, rapine and wandering; this people 

would need ennobling to pass for wolves: 
But Gunnar too and Hoegni are murderers. If you should ever 

do anything glorious they'd knife you for it. 
In the back. 
GUNNAR I am glad you are not an oath-breaker. You cannot 

have him. 

GUDRUN Can I not? 

GUNNAR You'll go home with us, Carling. 

GUDRUN You make him unhappy and nothing is decided. Drink, 


The trumpeter comes in, on the serving-side of the table, drops 
on one knee before Attila, and whispers to Blada. 
BLADA The bishop of Troyes, Master. One of those Roman 

holy-men. He came through the lines at Troyes saying he 

had gifts for you, so they brought him here. What was his 

name? What? 

THE TRUMPETER Lupus, my lord. Bishop Lupus. 
ATTILA We lack entertainment since the juggler was brained. 

Ah? Bring him in. 

HOEGNI (to Gudrun) Are you done raging? What's a juggler? 
GUDRUN (to Carling) The poor man was doing tricks for them. 

At first they threw pennies, but when they were drunk they 

threw bones. 

Bishop Lupus and his followers are led in, and set to stand facing 
Attila. The bishop is a tired white-bearded old man, noble in 
distress. His robe is torn and soiled; he carries a crozier. 
ATTILA Well, old beard? Talk. 
BISHOP LUPUS . I come to plead for a Roman 

Your troops are troubling; that your majesty may deign to spare 

it for a fit ransom. I am the unhappy shepherd 
That has to kneel to the wolf. 
ATTILA Your name? 

LUPUS I thought they had 

*old you. I am the unhappy Bishop of Troyes, 



Which lies like an egg in your hand to spare or crush. 
ATTILA (like a play-actor ', pretending vast anger) 
Spy! Do you hide your name? 
LUPUS Lupus, my lord. 

ATTILA Lupus. I thought so. Unmasked, ah? This seeming-rev- 
erend benign old man, that styles himself 
A shepherd: what kind of shepherd? A stealthy ravening and 

murderous wolf. I'll pluck that mock-saintly beard, 
See the great fangs grin in the jaws. 
LUPUS It is only my name, my lord, 

I cannot help it. Your majesty 
Delights in mockery. 
GUNNAR (to Gudruri) What is this ah-ah-ah talk, so smooth and 

soft? Do you understand it? 
GUDRUN (who has drawn a straight bright dagger from a hidden 

sheath, and plays with it on the table before her, regarding 

it gravely, as if she were reading it like a sad poem, in silence 

but with moving lips) 
Roman. No. 
GUNNAR I wish I could understand it. (seeing the dagger) That 

is a nice brave thing, do you cut your meat with it? 
GUDRUN I keep it clean, (turning to her slave-woman) Chry- 


What are they saying? (Chrysothemis interprets in her ear from 
time to time, Gudrun does not listen, but reads her knife.) 
ATTILA (continuing, to the bishop) Well, then: what ransom? 
LUPUS All that we have in the city, except a few loaves of 

Against starvation. For if you destroy the hive you'll have the 

honey, my lord, but burnt and damaged. 
Much rather take the honey and let the hive live, and season 

after season returning take 
New tribute. 

ATTILA You have a great store of wealth then. 

LUPUS Oh, little, 

my lord. The Goths have stripped us yearly, and the Alans 
Before them: we can only give all that we have. 



ATTILA All, hm? That's 

to say, all. Including your virgins, 

Young wives, all other livestock. 

LUPUS My lord, I have stood humbly 

before you bearing your mockeries. 

ATTILA Very well. 

Open your gates to-morrow in the morning, my officers will ex- 
amine your houses. 

LUPUS You are right, Attila, 

To judge me both fool and coward, that I have prayed mercy 

Where no mercy is. 

ATTILA You guess badly again. I am as full of mercy as the 
comb is of honey. But unfortunately I have not enough wine 
for all my people, nor beer either. We must drink the rivers. 

LUPUS I doubt your meaning, my lord. We will roll out all we 
have, every keg, every jug. 

ATTILA It is not enough. Your misfortune is that your city is on 
the Seine and pollutes the water. My horses bloated when we 
passed there. And now that we move west again: you under- 
stand? For sanitation, for sanitation. Man, woman, and child: 
every soul that drops excrement. 

LUPUS You are great and cruel, and are pleased to mock at us. 

I have borne it humbly. I have been deceiving you, Attila: you 
are not the mighty one here. You range the dark world 

From the Danube to the western sea; no man resists you, no 
power confines you; your numbers like the shore sands, 

And deadlier and crueller than the sea waves; so that the tall white 
ignorant heathen that humble Rome 

Horde upon horde fall helpless before you. 

They fall and scream at your feet; you ride them like horses or 
you drive them like deer. . . . Yet I say to you 

That the King whom I serve sometimes weeps in his sleep, pity- 
ing Attila. 

ATTILA Ho! In the pillow? 

Paternoster, ah? Paternoster. We know you. . . . What is that 

LUPUS For though you are great on earth, 



And seem to prosper invincibly: alas, there is only one little step 
for a man between life and death, 

Vast pride and bloody destruction. 

ATTILA I step, but not down. What 

is that hook in your hand? Answer. 

LUPUS My crozier. The shep- 

herd staff, the sign of my office. 

ATTILA Hm? . . . Dog! 

Attila glares at him in silence, with a stagy look oj black 
ferocity. Lupus begins to tremble ', but returns the stare 'with 

GUNNAR (to Gudruri) What now, what now? What did he say? 

GUDRUN He is trying to scare the old man. 

HOEGNI Eh: Gudrun. What d' y' keep reading your knife for? 
Has it runes in it? 

GUDRUN This? ... I will tell you. 

It is clean and straight. It speaks to me. It says: "Justice. 

Faithfulness. Honor. Courage. Duty." . . . But I am not able. 

I am not just, but a woman with kindred. 

Not honorable, not faithful to the eagle I loved. 

But passive, corrupt, merciful. 

HOEGNI Do you say so! Sheathe it then. 

ATTILA Hear me, companions. I have wound this babbler in the 
net of his own words, and he has confessed. He is the spy of 
a great king (that soaks pillows), and he is sent to hook me 
down with that hook: do you see that hook? See it jiggle 
in his hand. Judge. 

HUNS AND GOTHS (some in earnesty others shouting 'with laughter) 

Death. Flaying. 

The blood-eagle. By his beard hang him. 

LUPUS Lord Christ, I entrust my spirit to thy wounded hands 

Very cheerfully. Speak to thy Father, Lord, 

For the poor people of my city; and that he have mercy 

Even on Attila. 

ATTILA You tremble, however. Wait! . . . Reprieved, old man. 
I never offend a God on the eve of battle. My secretary 
Gratiano will arrange a fair ransom with you before you go 
home: he is a Christian too. Now . . . What's this picture 



on the wall behind me? Is it your God? Gratiano thinks so. 
The sun is setting, its level rays burn on the painting. Attilcfs 
imposing shadow, at the feet of the Prometheus, moves as he 

LUPUS No. (He wavers, as if to fall.) 

1 have tasted death. I wish to remember that it holds no bitterness; 

But lined with eternal life, solemn with joy. 

As for that picture . . . The picture, my lord? 

ATTILA Come, come. 

LUPUS (wearily, passing his hand over his forehead) 

A fable of the pagans; we read it in school. A wise giant that 
loved mankind: the God of the pagans crucified ... I mean 
hanged him for it. 

ATTILA Bah. I took the ransom because I thought your God was 

Drink, friends, it's a sick world! , . . Why was yours hanged? 

LUPUS What did you say, my lord? 

ATTILA Yours too was hanged for loving mankind. 

LUPUS Yes . . . yes. I am terribly tired. He gave himself 

ATTILA It is all the same thing. Keep your feet, old man! If you 
fall your city falls. (The bishop sways and faints, but is held 
up from falling by the priests with him) Ricimer: why was 
yours hanged? 

RICIMER, A GOTH Who? Me, master? 

ATTILA When you swear by your hanged God, when you prom- 
ise me faithfulness. 

Was he hanged for loving mankind? 

RICIMER Ho! We love our friends, not mankind. 

GUNNAR (to Gudrun reading her dagger) You have sworn, 

RICIMER We say that he hanged himself up as a sacrifice to him- 
self. They hang up heroes and white horses to him but that's 
not enough; he wanted the greatest sacrifice. There is noth- 
ing greater than himself, so he hanged himself up. Or another 
story . . . 

GUDRUN (suddenly standing) I, my lord! I, my lord! 

ATTILA Eh? Go on. 



GUDRUN I was brought up in it. We think there's a great wisdom 

in pain that's hidden from the happy. 
Woden's our God of Gods and no power could hurt him: then 

he must hurt himself to learn it: how else, 
Wisdom's higher half? It's false, though; I learn nothing. I ... 

Oh tell me, my lord, do the dead care 
What the living . . . what we do? 
ATTILA Take care of your words; we 

are feasting, not prophesying. 

GUDRUN Or even a punishment 

Is death? Quick pain and eternal quietness: that's a reward. Or do 

they lie groaning? Ignorant, my lord? 
But I can't act without knowing! Ask your companions, Attila, 

ask your lords of war, Attila! 
What: have you sent so many thousands to death, and not know 

what death is? 

Never frown at me, my lord, I am not drunk, 
Or only on the bitterness. Because my spirit's been rushing back 

and forth all day and dashing itself 
On both sides of decision like a fish in a doubled net. I can neither 

do it nor not do it ... 
I'll speak quietly. 
ATTILA (scowling) Do what? 
GUDRUN I will tell you. ... I pray you 

to let the old man lie down, my lord. We are cruel 
In needs and nature, but not to use it for amusement. That old sick 

HOEGNI (to Carling) Boy: slip away before it explodes. Gunnar 

and I are hanging on a widow's hair: never fear, we'll take 

some with us: but you . . . survive, survive. Do as if you 

were drunk and must find a place to relieve yourself. 
CARLING You mistake her terribly. 

ATTILA Gudrun: we never allow women to drink with us: I hon- 
ored you because you seemed white and still and well-bred. 

I was wrong to make an exception. You do for the bed but 

not the board. 

Keep standing, old man; on your feet! or all's lost. 
When it grows dark I'll set a torch-bearer by you 



To light you all night: if you fall we sack Troyes. I am not to be 

moved by women. You old white weariness, 
Can you not watch with me for one night? 
I too am aging, the snows of time in my hair like winter on the 

black pinewoods that wind that Grecian 
Fire-mountain Aetna: the frightful heart never cools, and when 

the fire bursts forth where is the snow? 
But still I am aging, and carry the enormous burden of the world. 

Night after hollow night my friends here 
Eat flesh, drink and wax merry, my armies that cover all the plain 

feed by straw fires and sleep, my companions 
Rest in their tents; but for me no slumber, no rest, no relief. My 

herds of horses 
Lie down under the stars before dawn, the herders forget to herd 

them, all the mounted sentinels 
Nod lower, their heads droop over to the horses' manes. The 

last drunkard sleeps in his song; the inveterate 
Gamblers dicing for bits of conquest, by a candle hooded with 

double leather, let fall their yellow 
Eyelids, their fingers relax. Even the little flowers of the fields 

have closed their faces and sleep . . . 
Who watches then? Who takes care? Who upholds 
The troublesome and groaning earth, revolving it like a vast iron 

ball in the torrent of his mind, devising 

Its better courses? Which one of your Caesars? Or does a Goth 
Uphold the whole earth, night and day, never sleeping? Is it 

Attila? And yet your thankless Romans and brutal 
West Goths conspire. Whom I shall crush with one mangling 

battle, in streams of blood exterminate rebellion 
And settle the world; no man again to make war, no man to be 

masterless, but laboring in orderly peace 
Under my lordship, the peace and happiness of the whole earth. 

. . . Hold up your face, man. 
If you fall, or fail to attend me, remember: every roof burnt, 

every man slain, each woman and child 
For a sport to the horse-herders. Eh, old man? . . . Tell me: 
I, watching all the nights through, toiling all day, sustaining the 

earth: am I not like your God 



That gave himself up to torture to save humanity, because he 

loved them? . . . Take off your hands from him! 
Let him stand alone. . . . Eh? Answer. 
LUPUS Have mercy . . . 


who, except my own people stuffed with incessant spoils, 
Has any gratitude? You in Troyes, shutting your gates? The 

Romans, that opened their mouths to swallow the earth 
And have choked on it? Or Theodoric the Goth, bought with 

Rome's gold? I shall not leave one alive. 
HOEGNI (to Carling, as Gudrun rises again) Make off, will you. 

Warn our folk if you can. 
CARLING She is good. You are dreaming. 
GUDRUN My lord, you are great and men are ungrateful. You 

have told your sufferings, our pity is moved. May I mention 

I shall make no disturbance; I have found decision and can speak 

quietly. My prayer is for simple justice, 
And you only in the world have power. I have stood in your 

ATTILA Promotion for your brothers, I suppose. Let them earn 

it in the near battle, it will taste the sweeter. 
GUDRUN (sighing sharply) Ah. A kind of promotion. Yes, my 

My youngest brother is perfectly without guilt in the matter: he 

must be saved. And my brother's men 
Are guiltless: I pray you let them go home. 
ATTILA Hm? Stop there. 

Twilight's a bad counsellor. Bring in the torches. 
HOEGNI (gently) Snow-girl: 

Snow-girl: do you expect to outlive us? 
We are not disarmed. 
GUNNAR (out of the corner of his mouth, to Hoegni) 

Hold your hand, brother. That would 

finish it. 
Patience and cunning may find the ford yet. . . . Gudrun . . . 

sister . . . 



Torch-bearers have come in. Some take their places behind 
the top of the table, so that the Prometheus is illuminated, but 
Attila a thick overbearing bulk against the light; others, at 
Attiltfs gesture, stand opposite Gudrun and her brothers, and 
one by Lupus; much of the company is in shadow, but these 
brightly lighted. 

GUDRUN Carling dear, can't you quiet them 

Until I have finished speaking? . . . You remember, my lord, 
how curiously I inquired (and never an answer!) 

On the subject of death? But now I think that if it is good I will 
do them good, for I love them. 

If evil, evil: for I hate them too. The thing they did to Sigurd 
I will do to them. (And quite ready 

To tempt it myself, Hoegni. Jukka: watch him. He threatens my 

Ah but this is a miserable story, my lord, of spites and jealousies 

In a back-woods corner between the swamp and the trees. In 
winter we have no sun and bleach white, in the spring 

We kill each other; blue campions blossom. You can hardly 
imagine our heavy narrowness, one thought a year 

And there it sticks. You plains-riders pass over and look at new 

I knew an eagle in my youth, but the warrior-woman 

Brynhild had enjoyed him when he was a boy. 

She married my brother Gunnar here, still loving Sigurd, 

Who was mine. . . . Wave the torch-man, my lord, nearer my 

While I speak of him, because I must praise him 

For Brynhild's reasons. Myself being wedded to the Hun-king, 
the captain of the earth, 

Would hardly . . . care ... to remember 

How beautiful (to that bison-boned woman I mean) Sigurd ap- 
peared. Oh, he was tall, and rather 

Pale than ruddy, with golden brown hair and eyes like the ... 

He was like a lonely eagle in the van of attack and like an iron 
tower (Brynhild 

Believed) in the closed battle when it bled at his base. Yet gayer 
at the feast and gender than any girl . . . 



At least of such as we breed northward . . . She preferred him 

to Gunnar and wooed him secretly and he disdained her. 
I too was a little scornful, because the woman was built too big 

and masculine to go about sighing 
With eyes like a sick wood-pigeon's, 

Then Brynhild in a cold and patient fury wrought on her hus- 
band, my brother here, saying daily 
That Sigurd outbraved him, Sigurd was the better man, Sigurd 

plotted to wrench his kingdom away, 
And so forth, and we in ignorance. The more noble are the more 

helpless in these whispering wars. So they killed Sigurd. 
Gunnar my brother and my brother Hoegni knifed him from 

behind, while he was kneeling to drink 
At a spring in the forest and you observe, my lord, 
That my face has not twitched nor my tongue faltered; the wrong 

I suffered led me up to the sun 
Of your countenance and burns to a benefit. 
ATTILA Gives you that icicle 

look: Hm? 

GUDRUN The whole world is injured 
If wickedness flowers unpunished. 
ATTILA What do you want? 

GUDRUN The woman, my lord, killed herself. 
Here are the men. I told the story to amuse you. 
ATTILA You have a crooked mind. If you know what you want 

I will do it. 
GUDRUN That my brother Carling be spared, because he had no 

part in the matter, he was then a young child. 
CARLING Oh ... Gudruri* 
GUNNAR (standing) My lord she has not shown you the half of 

this business. 

We are here as your guests and hers . . . 
HOEGNI (laying his sword on the table in front of Jukka) Take 

it, toad, (rising 'while Jukka reaches for it) I have its little 


He leans across Carling, striking at Gudrun with his dagger; 

but Carling, his right arm engaged under Hoegnfs weight, 

catches the blade of the dagger in his left hand. 



Chrysothemis screams. Jukka and others overpower Hoegm 
from behind. Gunnar, leaping back and half drawing his 
sword, is overpowered by Timor and others. 

ATTILA (roaring with angry laughter) Ho! . . . Are you hurt? 

GUDRUN (to Carling) Your hand, your hand! 

CARLING (his hand raining blood on the table) 

What have you done, Gudrun! 

ATTILA (angrily shouting) I say are you hurt? 

GUDRUN My . . . No, my lord. My little brother . . . Oh, 
Chrysothemis, tear your linen and tie it up. Here, here. 
(Gudrun gives her the dagger that she had been playing 
with) Cut strips. . . . Not hurt, my master. My brother 
took in his hand the blade . . . 

ATTILA What kind of death will you choose for them? . . . 
Drink, friends, it's no harm. 

GUDRUN I ... (moaning over Car- 

ling's hand) Does it hurt? Oo, Ooh ... I am so awakened 

From such a dream . . . / was not the one 

That wanted them, that wanted ... Oh no, my lord; and I do 
pray you . . . 

ATTILA By God, again? 

GUDRUN As in a nightmare 

We do what day would damn us for, 

I have been wanting . . . What have I done! 

My brothers, my lord: I grew up wi* them. . . . 

As if I had walked in the narrow cave of a dream and could never 

But now have wakened. No, no, no. If he struck at me, 

He knew that I was mad and trying for his life. . . . Oh, truly 
my lord 

It was only a play of mine to amuse you. I have sisterly grudges, 
I sought to frighten them. 

ATTILA Ay? We've drunk too much 

For you to jest with. 

GUDRUN It went too far. Yes, my lord. 

ATTILA Well, Timor? 

Ah? Whatever she wants, 



They have brawled at our table. Take them out, do what my law 

requires. Leave the pale boy. 
HOEGNI Damn you, Carling, that saved the toad's slut! But there, 

boy. Take heart. Live merrily. 
JUKKA (to Hoegni) Come on, you. Your last walk. 
TIMOR (to Gunnar) Come. 
GUDRUN (who has been standing death-white and passive, with 

eyes staring at no mark) I am in such a hell . . . 
GUNNAR Nobles of the Goths: is this justly done? You princely 

East Goths and Franks . . . 
It was sworn to me by Woden hanged on the tree, by the agony 

of God . . . (A hand is clapped on his mouth.) 
ATTILA (sharply, to Lupus) Keep on your feet, Bishop the 

GUDRUN (to Chrysothemis) Give me that! (She takes the dagger 

and sets the point against her breast) Attila, my master! If 

anyone comes near me before I speak ... or if they are 

taken off before you have heard me ... I know not that 

you care, but I'll do this. 
GUDRUN Perfectly, my lord. That is my name. One who swore 

vengeance by the great self -tortured God 
I then believed in; and consecrated my helpless life to it, went 

spying through the world for power to accomplish it ... 

(Her eyes rove continually, watching against interference) 
Tell your servants to stand away from me, my lord, 
Or in goes the needle-point. ... I heard that the power in the 

world was Attila: I knew not then that I was to love you, 
But solely playing my life to kill Sigurd's murderers . . . That 

was my constant passion, whether we rode 
In Greece or pleasured in Persia, or on the mirage- 
Glimmering Hungarian plain. At length we campaign in Gaul; 

I laid the trap when we crossed the Rhine, 
And sprung it by the Marne, and I cannot bear it. 
I seem contemptible to Sigurd but let him lie. Let them go! 
Oh, Oh, quietly. I promise. 
For two reasons, my lord: for if I have accomplished my brothers' 



destruction it will seem to all men that I love Sigurd dead 
more than you living. And also I shall kill myself. 

ATTILA These are dreams from the wine-cup bottoms. You have 
drunk yourself mad. 

GUDRUN Forgive me, Carling. . . . Hands off! 

RICIMER THE GOTH Master. . . . For undoubtedly they are 
guests; and it seems a crooked occasion. Might it be well to 
wait judgment until the morning? 

Two messengers have come in. They are dressed for the field, 
capped 'with iron and stained 'with riding. The gaudily dressed 
trumpeter is with them, trying to prevent them. 

THE TRUMPETER No, no, no, let me announce you. 


GUDRUN Oh noble Ricimer! Pray to my master! 

The messengers stand beside Bishop Lupus and his com- 

ATTILA What. You're well splashed. You, Haiga? 

HAIGA Master. They have made forced marches and have forded 
the Seine at five miles from Troyes. Your servants there are 

ATTILA It is time. 

HAIGA I have ordered raids, we shall have a few captives for 
questioning. The horses are being brought in. 

ATTILA This is not courage. These wretches rush on their fate 
like trembling culprits 

That pray the executioner to hurry the stroke. Dear hearts! it's 
ready. I shall so hug you, Theodoric, 

And you, Roman Aetius . . . (to Haiga) You will tell me the 
rest after we clear the hall. . . . Out, you unneeded. For the 
forest-men: take them and tie them up and set a guard: your 
business, Jukka. Except that pale boy: treat him with honor. 
Set a strong watch on their people. . . . For this old white- 
muzzled sheep-dog ... go pray, totter-knees. Give him a 
tent. Out with you. (As they go out) Close the curtains, we 
take counsel. 


GUDRUN (standing this side of the closing curtains; 'with Chry- 
sothemis. Carling has left her, going <with his captive brothers) 



Do you see him forget me, that pale bright thankless boy? Yet 
his blood's 

What washed my courage away and made me a merciful . . . 
piece for contempt. We are all four 

That bright foul blood. That foul bright . . . 

Am I insane or what? Look how Attila lights for action like a 
joy-fire, how Hoegni flamed up for it ... (tearing at her- 
self) Oh! Wet punk. You were born a Roman. 

CHRYSOTHEMIS I? Yes, my lady, a Greek. 

GUDRUN Men stole from your parents when you were ten years 


GUDRUN You were beaten without mercy, raped and starved and 
sold to a trader, and so began your pilgrimage. If your rob- 
be?s were laid at your feet, what would you do? 

CHRYSOTHEMIS Alas, my lady. Nothing. 

GUDRUN How, nothing? 

CHRYSOTHEMIS I would let them go. We were taught to forgive 
evil and love our enemies. But also I have known too much 
suffering ever to wish to inflict it, even on the wickedest . . . 

GUDRUN (striking her) Coward. Slave. A slave by nature. 

(They go out.) 


The scene is empty and darkened. Again and again horses are 
heard galloping from a sudden start: Attila's messengers to the 
four quarters of the field. The curtains are darkened out of sight, 
so that the person 'who comes in seems to walk abstract and alone y 
on a great plain at night. He sleeps the plain 'with a broom. 


I am sweeping the Catalaunian plain, 

Seine to Marne, Marne to Seine. 

Back and forth, south and north, 

For another battle this old earth. 

North and south, 

Blood of your sons will fill your mouth. 

West and east, 

Warrior's fall is worm's feast. 

East and west, 



Who can say but death's best? 

Here a track for the Hun stallions, 

Here a stand for Goth battalions, 

I must make all smooth and plain 

Along the Catalaunian plain. 

Here the legions, here for a king . . . 

To fall . . . here for a king . . . 

I forget the rhyme, I cannot help it. At every new era we have to 

learn a new set of verses, but damn this tinkle-tankle. 
God curse all rhymes 
I have to learn because of changing times. 
Fair, ah? I made it out of my head. Times change and we have to 

tag along, 
Learn a new song. 
I am the wind, I am the rain 
Over Chalons and along the plain, 
The tortured grass to grow again . . . 
Wi' poppies in it too. The stars shine weakly . . . Stop. What 

are you? (Two heroic shadows pass in the air.) 


Weep for the living, Brynhild, not for us dead. 

We cannot be betrayed nor betray ourselves; 

We have power, though unwilled; and only shadows of pain. 

(They fade and pass.) 
THE SWEEPFR (shivering) Booh! 
I am the wind, I am the rain, 
Sweep the Catalaunian plain, 
The dead they flit, the living remain, 
Lives like grass and blood like water, 
The women will breed and it's no matter. 
(He goes out, sweeping.) 


Starlight. A few distant red campfires. 

CARLINQ (entering alone) What was that? . . . Nothing. But 
their guards never sleep. Gunnar and Hoegni are held in a 
pit under a wall, bound hand and foot, and I am not allowed 
to come near them. I will glide through the army and rouse 



our people. We'll show these brown men whether the western 

axe has an edge, whether Gunnar is a king or a servile Goth. 
We are few, but the many sleep. What does it say in the poem? 

Let only a few but resolute arise, 
The tyrannies of darkness are not invincible. The soul of man is 

greater than the winter giants. Ah sweet sword, 
Sea-eagle how you vibrate against my thigh. We never guessed 

that so soon . . . Ah? We are going to act 
A nobler poem than any sung one: if I shake it's with eagerness. 

That red torch Antares 
Stands high in the south of summer midnight and we shall hew 

out of here before dawn. Now. Quietly. (He goes out.) 


Interior of a tent, lighted by a small lamp. Darkness outside. 
Chrysothemis lies asleep in a corner of the tent. 

GUDRUN A slave's dream, but a sweet one, 

That love is her law and God. She has slept on it, with a little 
breath of a Roman prayer, her hand 

Under her cheek. 

"Snow-girl," he called me, the pet-name, even 
in his hissing anger. And poor Gunnar's 

Pitiful bewildered kingliness. . . . Yes? Was not Sigurd 

Pitiable too? No, never, in his life or death. Betrayed, then? Be- 
trayed and stabbed, cowardly and shamefully. 

I have given my life and lived with a loathed husband, made 
myself the Hun's flattering harlot, to avenge it. 

Lived in the filth of the camp, lain in the sweat of his bed, my 
cold white body accepting entrances 

It ought to have died not to endure. No wonder my mind's 
divided in two: how can I tell 

Which half's the real one? . . . It's because I've lost religion; 
travel and the Christians corrupt me. I see the armies 

Like worms crawling, and the Gods a cloudy growth of decep- 
tion, and laws and justice only habitual 

Fear and imposed violence. 

I'll kill the half of my mind and not 
change again: how they'll laugh at me 



When safe at home. But Oh, the futile proceedings of life hence- 
forward, its purpose gone, disgraced 
And beggared, sold for nothing, empty and vile. Empty and vile. 

Yes, but 
Lordly Sigurd is nothing either; Sigurd is ashes. What value in 

ashes? that desire nothing, 
And are not desired; no courage in ashes, no joy, no loveliness, no 

eyes, no song. Am I to have killed 
My brothers for the sake of a cup of ashes? . . . Yes, but if 

Sigurd and the wish to serve him die out of me, 
Then Sigurd is dead indeed. Oh . . . (staring) I am in such a 

hell of emptiness . . . 
I will not change. I have forgiven them. Wake up, will you. 

(shaking Chrysothemis by the shoulder) Up! 

lady, I am sure 

It can't be lost. I laid it in the cinnamon-wood casket 
With the other silver. 
GUDRUN You must get up. 

CHRYSOTHEMIS Yes, my lady. 

GUDRUN They took my brothers to that cellar-hole 
Under the broken wall by the linden tree, near Blada's encamp- 
ment. You'll bear them a message for me. 
Tell them I pledge my life for theirs and will see them safe. Tell 

them that, as you say so grandly, 
"Love has conquered." I have the will and the power. . . . But 

after that. After that, woe to me harborless, 
Without direction or virtue. Well. Go. 
CHRYSOTHEMIS How long I have prayed 

to die. Oh not at night, my lady, 
Through the fierce camp! 
GUDRUN Poor doll, what do you fear, you were deflowered 

twenty years ago. No one will touch you, you are known 

for mine. And you are old, you are old. 
CHRYSOTHEMIS (kneeling) I dare not. I cannot, though you kill 

me. They are horrible. 
GUDRUN You are not wise, my dear. There is a worse wolf here 


than in the hundred thousand. I have tied up his jaws as well 

as I can, but speak softly. 

Chrysothemis goes, but stops outside the tent, in the light 

from the tent-flap, wringing her hands. 
GUDRUN Assure them they're safe, and will soon be free. 
. . . Little Christ-God of hers: apparently you are the last of 

the Gods for Gudrun, who has sloughed them all. You'll 

never go far in the world: I wish you could. A few women, 

a few slaves; but the nature of things is a wolf and your throat 

in his. 
A woman and the Roman slaves. I was a little more than a woman, 

and not a slave, though put to it 
To do craftily, when I made the plan and brought it perfect. I 

have played the slave's part until it fits; 
Ah? Slaved myself to the Hun and sold away my body's and 

spirit's nobility for an exact 
Payment of nothing, what a bargain. 
I have been bewildered. This is the curse of having been childless; 

the unspent milk swims in my blood, 
Honor, action, fierce faithfulness cannot live in me; but female, 

female mercy, female compunctions, 
And be inferior forever. You! Chryso! 
CHRYSOTHEMIS ('wringing her hands) I stand between death and 


GUDRUN She's gone: I forgot. No matter. 
This other message is mine to carry, on my knife's point. 

She goes through the tent-flap and comes on Chrysothemis, 

'who drops to her knees. 
GUDRUN (coldly) Baby. Get up and follow. (Noise of horses 

galloping) Wait while the horsemen pass: Attila's message- 
That fly all night when killing's in the air. He is filthy to touch 

or smell but a man of war. I 

Could respect him. Come . . . Ah? Thafs something. 
(Distant shoutings and anger in the darkness. Clash of arms, as of 

an enemy raid driven into the encampment.) Have they 

pulled open the iron flower of battle 



Untimely under weak stars? Listen (A stampede of horses is heard. 
Men calling from all directions. The central anger seems mov- 
ing distantly, from left to right) it's pretty. Shine, killers. 
What! Will your Christians 

Fight? It makes Tyr and Woden itch in my blood, all the unbe- 
lieved absurdities like thirsty fleas. 

Wonderful, to feel one's mind for a moment unfixed from misery. 

Baby, come. I want to see it. 

(draining Chrysothemis by the wrist) Come I say. 
Gudruris tent-sentinel has been standing motionless in the 
darkness. He comes into the light that shines from the tent- 

SENTINEL Regret, my lady, it is not fitting that our lord's 
lady . . . 

GUDRUN Quiet, you. Guard my gear, (shuddering) What was 

SENTINEL . . . wander through the night camp . . . My lady? 

GUDRUN Blind I have been. I never thought of it, mixed in my 
misery. My own folk's death-shout. My own blood spilling 

Made me merry just now. I drove 'em to it: Carling has called 
their troop and I am the fool. 

SENTINEL My lady . . . 

GUDRUN Follow down then. (They go into the darkness.) 

Men are heard roundabout, moving in the darkness, calling to 
each other. 

Which way? I said the bridle. Is it you, Katta? 

A VOICE (farther bouck) Nothing: some riotous captives. They 
are being dealt with. 

A VOICE Go back to your places and lie down. 

A VOICE Help me turn the horses if you are mounted, Katta. This 
is no storm. 


A length of broken wall. There are many dead at the wall-foot. A 
campfire flickers to one side; toward the center, warriors of the 
Huns, and men with torches. Others are investigating the fallen. 
Blada enters. 



A HUNNISH CAPTAIN My lord Blada! They brought it on them- 
selves, we only quelled them. . . . The Chief will under- 

BLADA I hope so. You are responsible. You must understand that 
this was the clan of the Lady Gudrun. 

THE CAPTAIN They started up suddenly and attacked. 

BLADA Have you questioned your prisoners? And there are live 
men in the heap, I can hear them gasping. 

THE CAPTAIN I have sent for a Prankish man who can gather 
their language. Here he comes I think. Merovech? Come 

A HUN SOLDIER (lifting up Corling from among the slain) 

Here is one living, an arrow right through him. And still grips a 
broken sword-hilt. 

ANOTHER SOLDIER Oh! That youth was their leader. 

BLADA Question him, Frank. What were they attempting? 

MEROVECH Were you their leader, young man? What is your 

CARLING (painfully) A free . . . fool. Whoever you are, you 
had better be lying here . . . than serve the Hun. 

MEROVECH Come, come, your name. 

CARLING Nobler than yours. 

MEROVECH (to Blada) I cannot do well with him: his mind 

ANOTHER SOLDIER (turning over a wounded man) 

Ho! Here is one of the two that were bound in the cellar-pit, 
whom they set free. 

BLADA (to Merovech) Try that one. Quick: he is going out. 

MEROVECH (kneeling over the wounded) Were you a chief of 
theirs? Your name, your name. 

HOEGNI (whispering) Go to hell. 

MEROVECH I wish to be your friend. You have death in your 

HOEGNI (whispering) I will tell my name ... to your master 
the Hun but not to you. 

MEROVECH (to Blada) He says he will tell you his name, but not 
to me. 


Blada stoops close to hear him. Hoegni strikes a dagger into 
his skull and shouts: 
Hoegni! Do you like it? 


THE CAPTAIN Ah ... rat ... (driving the lance he carries 
through Hoegnfs body) 

MEROVECH You need not have troubled: both dead already, both 

THE CAPTAIN Oh noble Blada. He can't have died thus: help me! 

MEROVECH He can't have lived very well, the long blade in his 
brain and the hilt his horn. My God, a one-horn, a unicorn. 

THE CAPTAIN Oh tent-pole of battles we shall miss you to- 

Oh star of the horses. . . . God, God, it's not possible. (To a 
soldier) Report this to Lord Timor . . . no, no, to Jukka 
first. Oh dreadful accident! Straighten his body, draw out the 

A SOLDIER How the dead forest-man grins in his yellow axe of a 
Gudrun comes, 'with her tent-sentinel and Chrysothemis. 

GUDRUN I know what has happened. Are any living? 

THE CAPTAIN The noble Blada! Murdered, murdered. 

MEROVECH My lady! 

GUDRUN (quietly) I see. 

I have come to ask about my brothers: have you killed them all? 
I bear the blame: but for pity . . . 

I am slack and patient you know, I can bear anything and smile 
at it, so answer me. Two of them were 

Captive, one a brave boy. (She sees Hoegnfs body) Oh. ... It 
was cruel. ... Is anyone alive? 

THE CAPTAIN My lady: a dreadful acci- 


The noble Blada . . . 

GUDRUN I see. Where's Ca . . . King Gunnar? 

Were any taken 


MEROVECH I have come just now. There's a fair boy still breath- 
ing ... If you look carefully 



You'll see twin flecks of light in the heap: he's down but his head's 

lifted: his eyes in the torchlight . . . strange, eh? . . . 
Fixed on us. 
CARLING Gudrun: come here. But do not touch me for the 

pain ... I never guessed: nobody speaks 
About the pain . . . 

GUDRUN (moaning above him) Oh, Oh. 

CARLING I roused our men, hop- 

ing to save my brothers. You and I between us 
Ha' done it, we've done it. ... I dreamed of being a poet and a 

warrior and am a piece of skewered meat. The sword 
You gave me snapped, it was rotten with enamellings. I hate you, 

but not for that. Look along by the wall-foot, 
Gunnar like a dead lion. 
GUDRUN Oh his mouth bleeds and fills: beasts! help 

me will you . . . 

CARLING (painfully) Drown yourself, Gudrun. Save pain. 
GUDRUN Die, dear . . . dear . . . dear . . . 

Quietly; like sleeping. Poor wet forehead. Oh, never? Oh 

how you shudder. 

Again? . . . Again? . . . The last, (rising) Now 
Blood-men be quiet. One beautiful and innocent, worth all your 

And smoky victories, has died, (seeming to weep) Oh. Oh. . . * 

I am false to the bones: I feel nothing: only weariness 
And sticky fingers. 
MEROVECH My God! the Chief! 

A stir among the soldiers. Attila enters, with Jukka and 

ATTILA Where? (seeing Blades body and Gudrun standing near, 

it) To your tent. A man has died. 
GUDRUN Many have, my lord: from time to time. 
ATTILA (to the captain) Are you of Blada's men? 
THE CAPTAIN Oh, master. Timor's. 
ATTILA (to a soldier) You? 
ATTILA Can you follow Bela-Nor as boldly? Your master would 

have led the encircling charge to-morrow, the hook that 


brings home the battle: he was my right hand and is cut off: 
Bela-Nor must lead it. You and your comrades will know 
that he is in Blada's place, it is Blada's soul in him. You will 
know. Your leader is not dead, his soul has gone into Bela- 
Nor. Do you hear, Blada's men? 

SOLDIER Ay! Master. Bela-Nor! 

ATTILA For these rioters: if any lives, kill, (to Gudruri) And 
you . . . T* your tent! 

GUDRUN Well, I bear the whole blame. I have managed neither 
justice nor mercy; slacked and let happen. 

I am one of those cowards that let go the bridle and brutal chance 
rule all. I ought to be whipped to death. 

But who's to do it, Attila? You? 

ATTILA Are you mad? 

GUDRUN No. Slacking 

again. Look, I pray you: this one's 

The best corpse of them all, his hand still bandaged from saving 
my precious life, his brave sword snapped. 

A lovely boy but not formed for war. He had beautiful music 
in his breast, and if he had lived might possibly . . . 

Ha' charmed cockroaches. 

And take care of my poor little slave-woman: be kind, be kind. 
I've lived wi' masterly killers, 

Taking instruction. (Her knife-blade winks in the torchlight.) 

ATTILA Catch her hand! 

GUDRUN Do this to the Romans to- 


She has carefully placed the point on her breast, and drives it 
in convulsively with both hands, a gesture of straining em- 
brace, and falls. The bystanders cry out. Chrysotbentis 
kneels by her. 


JUKKA, (stooping by the body) Master. 
ATTILA It is deep? 
JUKKA To the bottom. It is finished. 

ATTILA (furiously) Stand away from her then! . . Ah the 
white beast. 



What ailed her in God's name? She wanted her brothers killed 

. . . wanted, not wanted, gets what she wanted, 
And drinks a knife. It makes me mad, Jukka: I liked her well. 
CHRYSOTHEMIS Dear Savior, care for her spirit. 
She was bewildered, and she was kind. She might have come to 


ATTILA All these long white women have devils. 
Pahthe eve of battlethe same spiteful hour 
My right-hand friend and my favorite too. A cursed omen. 

He stands, blackly brooding. 

Meanwhile a thin, fractional, insubstantial Gudrun disengages 

herself from the body of Gudrun and stands beside it, among 

the living but neither seen by them nor seeing them, and 

stares with wide empty eyes. 
ATTILA (to Gudruris tent-sentinel') Why did you not catch her 

hand? Whose man are you? 
THE SOLDIER (in terror) My lord my lord. I was not near 

enough. Timor's. 
ATTILA He can spare you. (to the Captain) Have him bound: 

and bind the slave-woman. Bury them living in the Lady 

Gudrun's grave, not to lack attendance, 
CHRYSOTHEMIS (moaning) Oh. Oh. (But neither she nor the 

soldier offers resistance.) 
ATTILA For high-born Blada whom I loved: bury him not until 

after the battle. There will be thousands of Goths for him, 

thousands of Romans. 
GUDRUN'S SHADOW (with vague monotonous voice delirious after 

the shock of death) 
I know not moon nor stars, 
How low you lie, lynx. 
You must 'a' bled in the wars. 
Edgyth to whom he drinks, 
Or Fredegond: 
Me to womb he thinks . . . 

JUKKA (to Attila) May I speak? . , . Shall we convey the bod- 
ies to their tents, master? 
ATTILA Do it. Their tents? Yes, do it. 



JUKKA I'll have beds brought to carry them. (To a soldier) You, 

Elvi. And you. You. From Blada's quarters: hide stretched on 

spears, or what you can find, but hastily. 
GUDRUN'S SHADOW Tall sit the wolves around 
The lynx in the snow, 
Hanging their tongues beyond 
Their tails I know, (calling) Chrysothemis! (quietly) No, no. 

I know. 

In a row around the red pool 
In the snow, (calling) Sigurd? (quietly) Snow, no. 
ATTILA (over Gudrurfs body) She looks less than tall now. 
Lying wantonly with what a craving mouth. I ought to have . . . 

what she asked for . . . whipped to death . . . 
GUDRUN'S SHADOW (which has already moved to some distance 

from the body) 

Oh when my (mother's) maiden lynx 
Bled on the spear in the snow, (calling) Father? (quietly) No: 


Folded close will my petals open 
When the tenth moon has broken 
Silence? (calling) Mother? (quietly) No snow either. 
I am in the whom alone. 
ATTILA (touching with his fingers the face and throat of the 

body) I ought to 'a' killed you when you came riding that 

first time. You were damned from the first. Farewell, 
Harlot-gold hair. 

He withdraws from the body and turns his back on it, while 

men come in with stretchers. 
GUDRUN'S SHADOW My darkness begins to crawl. . . . Lynx are 

you there? ... I begin to remember a loathsome thing 
That the living call life. (She stands staring.) 
ATTILA (to Jukka) D' y' think it'll dawn clear? 
JUKKA Master? Oh, ay, I think so. There were low clouds but 

the moon outsoars them. I think we shall have perfect 

weather, my lord. 
ATTILA We had better, (fiercely) Attend to that business: see it 

done with dignity. 



GUDRUN'S SHADOW Am I to go down the darkness eternally 

Chewing such a filthy cud of memories between my eyelids? 
Poor youth-broken Carling whimpering 

In the dead men's haycock . . . and Hoegni the poison-white 
sidelong slayer . . . the plain careful fool 

Gunnar making a speech. Or a horrible beater of drums like 
Attila. Or myself, whored and treacherous 

Plotter too weak to see it through, (tearing at herself) Shadow 
cannot hurt shadow, 

No knife can save me. 

The bodies are being borne away, accompanied by torch- 
bearers: and with Gudrun's, Chrysothemis and the tent-sen- 
tinel are led. Chrysothemis screams suddenly, and Attila 

JUKKA Stop that. Strike her mouth. 

She is silenced; the bodies are taken out. Attila shudders and 
draws his cloak to his face. 

THE CAPTAIN (to Jukka, quietly) The Chief . . . look. 

JUKKA Oh master. If I dare: what is it ... 

ATTILA (making a noise like anger) There was none like Gudr 
. . . Blada. . . . Things are not right here, do you feel that? 
There is no tension in the air. Always before a battle we've 

Twitching in the stored womb of thunder, where the hair starts 
from the skin, men ha' snapped at each other 

Like famished hounds, horses neighed all night. Now: by God, 
listen. Not a fierce note in the camp. 


My eagle. Conquering Sigurd, for whose dead sake ... I sup- 
pose there is no meeting among the dead; 

But each in his lonely darkness, after the drunken insanity and 
sweat of life, remembers disgust. 

ATTILA Nothing. Murmurs. Sleepy patience, walking horses, 
stinking omens. 

JUKKA Master, we have Attila. 

ATTILA Oh, ay, we'll cook them and eat them. Come. . . . 
Aetius and his Romans: Theodoric his West Goths and so 
forth: when I gather them in my mind, then they are under 



my hand. I am still Attila. (Attila and Jukka go out 'with their 

GUDRUN'S SHADOW ('while soldiers heap the fire, and hold torches 

to strip the better-furnished of the slain) 

For my killed eagle. Love, the base instinct, the leader of cap- 
tivities. How low you lie, lynx, I've sweated pleasure 
Under Attila's brown bag of a body when I thought of his power. 

Love? ... I think my deformity 
Was only ambition: to fly at the highest. 
Therefore I valued Sigurd, famous for killing, but horrible Attila's 

ten thousand to him. Oh, vile 
Vile heroic flesh. Brynhild have him 
If any residue's to find, I know he hankered. Worthy of each 

other, both heroes, dog-wolf and bitch-wolf. 
But I will give myself to the earth-hating wind, in hope to be 

washed clean of the stains and scalding 
And that crime of being born; and praying to find the black 

honey of annihilation in some comb of darkness 
Back of the stars. At worst I shall find no deeper defilements nor 

no worse captivities. Fling me far, wind. (She goes out.) 


The Sweeper, as in VI, passes along the closed curtain, carrying 

his broom. He seems inhumanly remote and tall, in spite of the 

bonhomie of his mask. 

THE SWEEPER A fair field, as they say, well swept. 

Fve labored all night and seen the yellow lions of day 

Creep on the Argonne hills peering for prey. 

Plenty: they're breaking each other's bones already. Go it, Goth. 

Sick 'em, Hun. Now I can take a few hours off and back to 

work in the afternoon, f or 
Hun brag and hound bay, 
This broom decides the day. 
Roman hold and Hun ride, 
My broom will decide. 
Strictly according to orders: I'll recite them for you. First: to 

blow Attila back to the Danube. Second: to clear the air of 



the cluttering ghosts of the slain. Third: to pat down the 

battle-corpses and gloss over everything. 
So much anger, so much toil, 
All to make soil. 
So much fury to feed grass 
Comes to pass. 

All the horror, all the pain . . . 
What's horror and pain? If I could understand the words I might 

remember the rhyme, (scratching his head) . . . Well, but 
Some day cabbages and vineyards 
Will spring out of the warriors' inwards. 
(He goes out, absent-mindedly sweeping.) 


Gudrun, at first alone. The factors of the scene do not become 

visible until she perceives them. 
GUDRUN Thin storm, no farther? The air hisses and fails, dying 

like a sick snake. Far down below me the meteors 
Spin green fire-threads; almost infinitely far down, the glaciers 

make faint light at the mountain-foot. 

The peak is hidden in that cloud of stars. . . . Ah, it's not here, 
What I was hoping. My knife was a fool and could only thread 

the meat of the breast, missed this unlucky 
Point it was sent to find . . . spirit, soul . . . me apparently . . . 

the dead body's lost dog, 

Howls in the silence. Will it starve at last? Or is it perhaps . . . 
Immortal? . . . that would be a sick thing. 

I thought this height 

had no human stain: but someone . . . The star-vapor 
Drifts off and clears him. Another of death's white lies I suppose. 

(A figure becomes visible, standing on a rock a little higher 

than Gudrun) Red stars in his hands and feet, a blood-comet 
Cut in his side. He is berserk-naked, young and gray-haired, one 

of the shieldless that burn young. 
He seems to be praying to the peak, as our childish priests used to 

pray to oak trees . . . and other handless Gods . . .(ad- 
dressing the young man) 



And get the same answer. What are you praying for, annihila- 
tion? If you find it, tell me. 

THE YOUNG MAN Did you believe in me once, that you rub salt 
in my wound? 

GUDRUN What? No. If you are the Roman God that my slave 
described to me: how bleak your heaven is. 

THE YOUNG MAN I was deceived; and love is a fire; I cannot end 
until my banked longing burns itself out. 

SINGERS (coming tip from below, and going about the rock the 
young man stands on) 

... No angel flew 

To unwind us when the flesh died, 

No light no song for a guide, 

I cannot guess how we knew 

The way up to you. 

I died in childbirth crying to you. 

I died of old age in your faith. 

I of a crueller death. 

All my life was my flying to you. 

We on the spear and sword, 

Fighting for Christian Rome. 

The running pestilence, Lord. 

Open the enchanted home, 

Open the glory of God. 

Savior, I on the road 

Running to your wars. 

Open the joy, break back the stars. 

Because my faith 

Haughtily trampled on death. 

The wings, the victory, the shrill 

Song on the height. 

The violent blossoming, the life the light 

After the mortal strife. 

He will tell us the gate is open: be still. 

The star-gates. Endless life. 

THE YOUNG MAN When I could not bear it ... Betrayed chil- 
dren, I was deceived before I deceived you. I have stood 
here long 



And seen my betrayed come to my feet, and bitterly seen the soul 
more mortal than flesh, and found 

No blood to weep for it. When the earlier dead came crying to 
me, my first martyrs, from jails and gibbets, 

Who had endured all evil for my sake, led by my words to 
misery, my promises to death by torture: 

And even my own dear friends whom I had touched with my 
hands . . . when I could not bear it, 

I lied and said "Life is here. Wait but a little, my Father is pre- 
paring your places behind the stars." 

They waited in hope, soon they were nothing. They faded and 
wasted and were gone away, but not into joy. 

I will not lie to you. You are dead; your lives are finished; there 
is nothing more. The spirit is a distant echo 

From the other mountain, dying in a moment. Or a blown fading 
smoke of burnt grass. My dream was a fool. 

My promises were a love-drunken madness. Alas that you are too 
weary shadows to cry out and curse me 

And drown my long self-torment in your seas of bitterness. If 
Judas for a single betrayal hanged himself, 

What for me, that betrayed the world? 

SINGERS Our Saviour says 

Wait, for the star-gates move; 

While I gaze on his face, 

While I faint on his love. 

THE YOUNG MAN You have not understood me. I would not de- 
ceive any soul 

Again forever. While I lived I saw my people beaten and de- 
prived, therefore I imagined a world 

Beyond life, out of time, righteousness triumphing. I saw it so 
clearly, towers of light, domes of music, 

God's love the wings and the flame. But sometimes I thought my 
vision was only a symbol of much greater realities. 

Thus passionately I raised myself up to be mocked and pitied. 
. . . There is nothing good after death. 

As to God: I know not whether he is good. I know not whether 

he exists. I have stood and gazed at the star- 
Swarming cloud. . . . Out of huge delusion 



My truth is born. It has nothing to do with the dead; I loved the 
living and taught them to love each other. 

Even now on earth my love makes war upon death and misery, 
not like a sword, like a young seed, 

And not men's souls, but far down the terrible fertile future their 
children, changed and saved by love, 

May build the beauty of an earthly heaven on all our dead an- 
guishes, and living inherit it. 

SINGERS Do you hear? He says that we inherit 

Heaven on the instant and the roofs are tiled 

With the flame-wings, the high-singing angels, the rose-color 
wings, the wild 

Fire-color wings, the violet-fire feathers and spirit over spirit 

For tile over tile overlapping from the ridges downward . . . 

OTHER SINGERS (hoarse voices; a heavier tune) 

The arrow is like air but the held spear enters. 

The pike is a pearl, pushes its path. 

Ha! says the sword, ham-strings the horses. 

The hooking halberd, the Hun from the saddle-ridge, 

Ha! says the halberd . . . (more quietly) the fear, the pain. 

The knees that sag while the blood runs out, the dizzy sickness, 

The choking struggle, the horror of death . . . 

GUDRUN Another variety of dreamers. They pass like pulses from 
a cut artery. I saw Hoegni in the press 

Furiously stabbing imaginary princes; and Blada leading his 
lonely fancy of ten thousand horse, 

His private death-dream. 

OTHER SINGERS Claw, green cat, 

Roll it home to Roua. 

Cat of the standard! 

You have felt the claws, Goth? 

The teeth excel them. 

(quietly) Oh, the terror. 

The darkness of wounds, the fallen riders, the red agonies. 

OTHER SINGERS Wolves for your hunger horse-meat and Hun- 

Weary not, West-wolves, worry to the bone. 



(quietly) The horror, the hidden cowardice, 

The stifling agonies. 

GUDRUN What a wretched fisherman is death, 

That lets his catch lie kicking in the nets of delusion like living 
men. ... A sudden silence has covered them. 

THE YOUNG MAN The cloud that veiled it: Oh breaking, break- 
ing. The stars like dust flee apart, perhaps for the face of 
God . . . 

The height clears. It is the great cliff under the mountain- 
peak, precipitous, with a shallow concavity and over-balance, 
like the face of a breaking wave. A vast form, in appearance 
youthful and human, beautiful and powerful, is bound 
against the rock, banging on heavy chains from the wrists, 
and bleeding from wounds. The figure resembles the Pro- 
metheus painted on the wall of the ruined house where Attila 
feasted; but this is more beautiful, and not a painting. 

THE YOUNG MAN I hoped. I am finally betrayed and perfectly 
fooled to the end. It is only my dream of my own death 

Hanged on the sky. Blind stars, return. 

SINGERS Oh stars return, Oh mind 

Remember the earth or be suddenly blind. 

I see the pride of an eagle nailed up alive. 

A leopard pierced with spears that transfix the stone. 

Enormous helpless shoulder-storms of an eagle nailed there: yet 
strive, wings, strive. 

Sharp strength come down, be free. Oh lonely virtue, Oh alone 

Beauty and power. Bright snake nailed on the stone. 

GUDRUN Leopard, serpent, eagle? Wounded power? Oh, but 
lovelier. The hanged God that my childish blood loves. 

This is my barbarous blood from the north, from the sick swamps 
and the heavy forest, white fogs and frosts, 

My vicious blood . . . was it spilt? . . i my vicious love flies 
to him like sighing fire like the tides of the sea* 

I know not moon nor stars, how low you lie, lynx, I have come 
to my love, I have found him. Here is the dignity 

We adored in rocks and waters, the reticent self-contained self- 
watchful passion of the gray rock 



The greatness of high rivers going west; here is the comeliness 
I knew in heroes, the high beauty of the helmets, 

The praise of Sigurd; here is the pain in myself and all. Here is 

All that my living eyes ever saw was phantom 

Shadows of this. Myself too: I was nothing but only a sigh 
toward him. For this I killed my brothers, 

For this I let Sigurd be killed: I never knew myself 

Before this moment: I know that I consented in Sigurd's death. 
Layer after layer I am stripped 

Of falsehood under falsehood and fear under fear, and know my 
naked center in the flame of reality, 

The sun of this beauty, the song of burning. To this I am will- 
ingly sacrificed, I have come to my love, I have found him, 

I have aped him and shared his life, like the white horses the 
Swedes hang up to Odin, from the porch lintels 

Of pillared Upsala. 

THE YOUNG MAN He is not a phantom. The stubborn violent 
rays and strain of reality 

Glow from those tortured limbs, I know them, I have found 
what I was all my life seeking, and all my death, 

The power my life-delusion called Father, and never feared him 
and never . . . hated him . . . before this time. 

I wish the waters of Palestine had been white fire, devouring the 
flesh with the spirit before I sought to him. 

I wish my mother had been slain with a sword before she con- 
ceived me, or shame had killed her when the unknown seed 

Knocked at the womb. He is terribly beautiful. 

He is like a great flower of fire on a mountain in the night of 
victory, he is like a great star that fills all the night, 

He is like the music and harmony of all the stars if all their shin- 
ing were harp-music. He has no righteousness, 

No mercy, no love. 

SINGERS Peace, and the vast 

Expanse of the soaring storms, the peace of the eagle 

Forever circling 

Perfectly forever alone, no prey and no mate. 

What peace but pain? 



His eyes are put out, he has fountains of blood for eyes, 

He endures the anguish. 

But if he had eyes there is nothing for him to see 

But his own blood falling, 

He is all that exists. . . . 

GUDRUN It is bitter in me 

That I fled out of life, while I see the beauty of power over- 
coming pain, and the earnest eyes. 

I think that Gunnar was born a fool, and now I know Carling. 
Hoegni had a glimmer of the beauty, he burned 

A little pure, if pure killer. And Brynhild beautifully did evil 
and died. Sigurd ... a noise 

Flung up by fortune. I have come to my love, if only in a par- 
tial vision: his greater part 

No poet can know. 

THE YOUNG MAN The fire on the mountain 

Lights all my depth: I see the ridiculous delusion that gave me 
power and the ways that led up to Golgotha, 

The delusion dies, the power survives it. I am not conquered. I 
set myself up against you, Oh merciless 

God not my father. On earth an old wave of time is fallen and 
a new one draws 

From the trough to tower higher: my spirit is the light in it, 
I am remembered, this age is mine. 

I have bought it with the stubborn faith of my people, and my 

Insane idealism, the wine of my wounds, the tension of intolerable 
hope. Let me remembered 

Be a new spirit of mercy in the new age, a new equality between 
men, that each 

Unblinded behold the beauty of all others: thence happiness and 
peace . . . my longing chokes me. . . . When men are 

Let them cut the crosses out of the churches, no man remem- 
ber me. 

GUDRUN He is beautiful, this easterner, but like a child 

Desiring what men despise. Happiness? For all the living? How 
shamefacedly we should have to kill it 



As if it were evil. Hoegni'd run white and stabbing through the 

world, and well stabbed, Hoegni. I can't think why. 
SINGERS (Scattered multitude^ seen moving among the rocks at 

the Hanged God's feet, or like meteors across the sky at his 


If once I could see the poplars again that ring the cistern 
Whiten their leaves 
I could bear to have died. 
They are fed with sun and the flashing water, from the high 

Falls a stray wind 
To the mountain foot. 

What enemy has maimed you and nothing perfect? 
The cloud on the mountain is black, on the plain a small golden 


Where men race horses; 
The cool round cistern's 

Blue eye glitters, the pale poplars for eyelashes; dark 
Rises the mountain 
To the roaring cloud. 

Oh wounds of God, storm of stars, broken wings. 
At Cartagena on the broken sea-wall spikes of white grass 
Used to be shuddering, 
You saw blue water 

Through the spikes of dry grass, Oh why must I weep for those 
Pale rays wavering 
In sea-cloud wind? 

I would the enemy that wounded him had killed him. 
The Christinas fir-trees crack with burdens of snow, how low 
Low you lie, lynx, 
The torn throat's flow 

Is red but the wolves glitter with frost and snow, their spears 
Red in a row 
Around the red pool. 

He is beautiful, I fear his wounds are not mortal. 
Ah Sigurd that I was mourning Adonis the mistletoe lance, 
Hoegni nail hard 
The hero's hands 



To the eagle wings, make him more than a man, die for me Christ, 

Thammuz to death, 

Dermot go down. 

What boar's tusk opened God's flank; what enemy has bound 

his wrists, 

Nailed him on the eagle 
Wave of the mountain? 
Die, dear . . . dear . . . quietly like sleeping, Carling, drink 


Oh how you shudder. 
Again? Again? 

The cool black water Oh red lips of fever, burning harsh lips, 
Dear, die. Oh dreadful 
Agony of God can you never die? 

The mountain storm-cloud of stars, mounded and towering, mul- 
titude, thunder-cloud 

Dark with the blinding arrogance of light: what a black 
Lightning from that! 
I say have you learned from the Roman Christ to be meek and 

hang there, 

For love of humanity perhaps! 
Hanged like a beast's hide? 
Bound captive who looks like power, like the eagle of battles, 

when you shudder in the agony huge bands of strength 
Move in the arms to the groove of the breast as if you might 

conquer many but an enemy has conquered you. By craft 


Or like the young Jew 
For you loved your enemy perhaps! 
Why do you call him impure, there is no impurity in fire there's 


Me Attila and Christ defiled in vain. 

The grave slow sunset bleeding at the end of enormous lands, 
Always to bleed, 
Never go down, 

I would I had worn my life with a little valor while I lived 
And the earnest beauty of things 
Was always reproaching me. 



O sola beatitude, 

Lonely bleeding star 

So high, so high 

Over the multitudes. 

I believe because it is unbelievable, there is my victory. 

What is that rushing in the air, 

That moaning on earth? 

Witches and Maries at the foot of the gallows 

And over the post and the peak and the superscription in the 
furiously pouring 

Rage of the stars 

Riding Valkyries. 

Come up Grimalkin my long-nosed sister. Is it you, Birdalow? 

Naked and greased 

Swim in the storm. 

I am old and have flapping breasts. Bind a birth-strangled man- 

February bud 

In the hollow between them. 

Oh hell's the horror. Hush/ Hell's the horror. Shut your 
mouth, woman! 

Lord Satan wishes 

That hell hushes. 

Blood fire in the mouths of eternal furnaces, Oh Oh no hope 
no help no end, save me Christ. 

No. You must be sacrificed. 

I'll hang with my lord then, my beautiful honey-love Satan. 
Snow no. It's God. 

Satan was burnt. Ah! but to nothing. 

Gone, destroyed, nothing. 

Loathing? Snow, nothing. 

Oh lucky prince. 

Do you hear the storm of the wind rattling the gibbet 

Chains? The lynx has got out of chains, what reins 

Will now bridle him? The wind's idle hymn, 

The girls on black horses, the chaste Valkyries. 

And who is to lead us in that day? 

The gnomes of the chaste machines? Not they. 


What, the scared rich? 

Snow: the sword. 

Into the ditch. 

Man has no nobler lord. 

Now the age points to the pit, all our vocation 

Is to teach babes to jump. Oh sterile 

Process of Caesars, all the barren Caesars. 

Look at us, God, we are part of you: not defiled? not imbecile 

Children sold for the seventh 

Share in a toy, a motor or a music-box, push-button comforts, 

a paper world? 

I would the enemy that wounded you had killed you. 
I would the shores and the valleys were sheeted with fire and the 

mountain volcano's 
Vomit on the plains, when the feet were burnt off we should 

fall on our hands and fire 
Lap at the wrists and cut them and the faces fall in it. We are 

many, and strangely 
Powerful, knowing metals, knowing drugs, we have counted 

the stars, we have conquered the mastery of wings, and 

there's not one of us 

Worthy to live, pure enough, proud enough. So they say. 
What, they think life is great? 
I have had my day: 

Life is too little to love, too little to hate. 
Temperately share the house 

With beetle and louse. At the head of the beautiful glen 
The mountain is crowned with dawn and his purple shoul- 
ders . . . 

There are fox-gloves here, at the foot 
How the sea flames. 

The sun will come through it in a moment, 
Saying "I desire to die, let me die. 
I hate myself, I writhe from myself in fountains of fire 
And fall back frustrate, something escapes, wastes into light, 

waste is my want, 
I pour my body on the eyeless night 
And a few planets the rain 



Of golden pain, 

But knowing that annihilation's no promise, but on and on 

New flesh catches old bone . . ." 

INHUMAN VOICES I am the whale's way. What, for their woes? 

I am the old 
Dragon of blue water. 

Rock and the snow, Aconcagua, Gosainthan, Kinchinjunga, all 
High-builded cloud-knives, 
Heads of the earth, here is our sky-head. 
Blazing I gaze, I am the sun, never to find 
Purpose nor worth: why do I shine? Why shall I die? I am the 


Fire-swarm of wheeling vultures of light, torch-multitude 
Turning in the emptiness, 

Hungry for darkness, I am the galaxy. Darkness for all-heal? 
I am an old 
Out-lier, a cloud of 
Coal-black vultures, universe of slag, caught in the fork. I have 

eaten darkness. I am the shoreless 
Ocean of stars, crazy to shed 
My desire from me. I am power, 
Pushing so close against the fountain that I can hardly 
Distinguish myself from him; I am the doer, pale with desire, 

never to know 

What is my want, where is the end; stone-eyed and lightning- 
Handed and sleepless. 

VOICES What horse will you ride, Katta? The crazy black. 
I was broken yesterday. 

Life was an idiot dreaming, death's his kept ape. 
Sir, we guessed that last August in Macedonia, 
The night we turned atheist by a dry-weed campfire 
Drinking bitterness and spitting vinegar. Hush it thunders. 
THE HANGED GOD Pain and their endless cries. How they cry to 

me: but they are I: let them ask themselves. 
I am they, and there is nothing beside. I am alone and time passes, 

time also is in me, the long 
Beat of this unquiet heart, the quick drip of this blood, the whirl 

and returning waves of these stars, 



The course of this thought. 

My particles have companions and happy fulfilments, each star 
has stars to answer him and hungry night 

To take his shining, and turn it again and make it a star; each 
beast has food to find and his mating, 

And the hostile and helpful world; each atom has related atoms, 
and hungry emptiness around him to take 

His little shining cry and cry it back; but I am all, the emptiness 
and all, the shining and the night. 

All alone, I alone. 

If I were quiet and emptied myself of pain, 
breaking these bonds, 

Healing these wounds: without strain there is nothing. Without 
pressure, without conditions, without pain, 

Is peace; that's nothing, not-being; the pure night, the perfect 
freedom, the black crystal. I have chosen 

Being; therefore wounds, bonds, limits and pain; the crowded 
mind and the anguished nerves, experience and ecstasy. 

Whatever electron or atom or flesh or star or universe cries to me, 

Or endures in shut silence: it is my cry, my silence; I am the 
nerve, I am the agony, 

I am the endurance. I torture myself 

To discover myself; trying with a little or extreme experiment 
each nerve and fibril, all forms 

Of being, of life, of cold substance; all motions and netted com- 
plications of event, 

All poisons of desire, love, hatred, joy, partial peace, partial vi- 
sion. Discovery is deep and endless, 

Each moment of being is new: therefore I still refrain my burn- 
ing thirst from the crystal-black 

Water of an end. 

My lips crack with their longing for it, 

My wounds are fires, the white bones glitter in my iron-eaten 
wrists, blood slowly falls, blinding white bands 

Of fire flow through the strained shoulder-blades, so that I groan 
for an enemy to kill: there is none: I alone. 

Stars are condensed from cloud and flame as it were immortally, 
and faint and have ceased, and their slag finds 



After enormous ages the mother cloud; self-regenerating universes 

all but eternally 
Shine, tire, and die; new stars fling out new planets, strange 

growths appear on them, new-formed little lamps of flick- 
Flesh for the same flame. 

... On earth rise and fall the ages 

of man, going higher for a time; this age will give them 
Wings, their old dream, and unexampled extensions of mind; and 

slowly break itself bloodily; one later 
Will give them to visit their neighbor planets and colonize the 

evening star; their colonies die there; the waves 
Of human dominion dwindle down their long twilight; another 

nature of life will dominate the earth, 
Feathered birds, drawing in their turn the planetary 
Consciousness up to bright painful points, and accuse me of in- 
flicting what I endure. These also pass, 
And new things are; and the shining pain. . . . 

Every discovery 

is a broken shield, a new knife of consciousness 
Whetted for its own hurt; pain rises like a red river: but also 

the heroic beauty of being, 
That all experience builds higher, the stones are the warring 

torches, towers on the flood. I have not chosen 
To endure eternally; I know not that I shall choose to cease; I 

have long strength and can bear much. 
I have also my peace; it is in this mountain. I am this mountain 

that I am hanged on, and I am the flesh 
That suffers on it, I am tortured against the summit of my own 

peace and hanged on the face of quietness. 
I am also the outer nothing and the wandering infinite night. 

These are my mercy and my goodness, these 
My peace. Without the pain, no knowledge of peace, nothing. 

Without the peace, 

No value in the pain. I have long strength. 
SINGERS The long river 
Dreams in the sunset fire 
Shuddering and shining. 



All the drops of his blood are torches. 
I am one with him, I will share his being. 
Alas to me the deep wells of peace are a dearer water. 
GUDRUN I will enter the cloud of stars, I will eat the whole ser- 
pent again. 

SINGERS His beauty redeems his acts, it is good for God 
Not to be quiet, but for men not to live long. 
Forever if I could: his intelligencer 
Spying the wild loveliness. 
But after I have rested as it were a moment 
Against the deep wells, and then 
I am willing to eat the whole serpent again . . . 
The river down the long darkness 
Shining writhes like a fire, 
The stars return. 


Contemplation would make a good life, keep it strict, only 

The eyes of a desert skull drinking the sun, 

Too intense for flesh, lonely 

Exultations of white bone; 

Pure action would make a good life, let it be sharp- 

Set between the throat and the knife. 

A man who knows death by heart 

Is the man for that life. 

In pleasant peace and security 

How suddenly the soul in a man begins to die. 

He shall look up above the stalled oxen 

Envying the cruel falcon, 

And dig under the straw for a stone 

To bruise himself on. 



Here is a symbol in which 
Many high tragic thoughts 
Watch their own eyes. 

This gray rock, standing tall 

On the headland, where the seawind 

Lets no tree grow, 

Earthquake-proved, and signatured 
By ages of storms: on its peak 
A falcon has perched. 

I think, here is your emblem 
To hang in the future sky; 
Not the cross, not the hive, 

But this; bright power, dark peace; 
Fierce consciousness joined with final 

Life with calm death; the falcon's 
Realist eyes and act 
Married to the massive 

Mysticism of stone, 

Which failure cannot cast down 

Nor success make proud. 



Spirits and illusions have died, 

The naked mind lives 

In the beauty of inanimate things. 

Flowers wither, grass fades, trees wilt, 
The forest is burnt; 
The rock is not burnt. 

The deer starve, the winter birds 

Die on their twigs and lie 

In the blue dawns in the snow. 

Men suffer want and become 
Curiously ignoble; as prosperity 
Made them curiously vile. 

But look how noble the world is, 
The lonely-flowing waters, the secret- 
Keeping stones, the flowing sky. 



These grand and fatal movements toward death: the grandeur 

of the mass 

Makes pity a fool, the tearing pity 
For the atoms of the mass, the persons, the victims, makes it 

seem monstrous 

To admire the tragic beauty they build. 
It is beautiful as a river flowing or a slowly gathering 
Glacier on a high mountain rock-face, 
Bound to plow down a forest, or as frost in November, 
The gold and flaming death-dance for leaves, 
Or a girl in the night of her spent maidenhood, bleeding and 


I would burn my right hand in a slow fire 
To change the future ... I should do foolishly. The beauty 

of modern 

Man is not in the persons but in the 

Disastrous rhythm, the heavy and mobile masses, the dance of the 
Dream-led masses down the dark mountain. 



The earth has covered Sicilian Syracuse, there asphodel grows, 

As golden-rod will over New York. 

What tragic labors, passions, oppressions, cruelties and courage 

Reared the great city. Nothing remains 

But stones and a memory haunting the fields of returning as- 

You have seen through the trick to the beauty; 

If we all saw through it, the trick would hardly entice us and 
the earth 

Be the poorer by many beautiful agonies. 



No bitterness: our ancestors did it. 

They were only ignorant and hopeful, they wanted freedom but 

wealth too. 

Their children will learn to hope for a Caesar. 
Or rather for we are not aquiline Romans but soft mixed 

Some kindly Sicilian tyrant who'll keep 
Poverty and Carthage off until the Romans arrive. 
We are easy to manage, a gregarious people, 
Full of sentiment, clever at mechanics, and we love our luxuries. 



The quality of these trees, green height; of the sky, shining, of 

water, a clear flow; of the rock, hardness 
And reticence: each is noble in its quality. The love of freedom 

has been the quality of Western man. 

There is a stubborn torch that flames from Marathon to Concord, 

its dangerous beauty binding three ages 
Into one time; the waves of barbarism and civilization have 

eclipsed but have never quenched it. 

For the Greeks the love of beauty, for Rome of ruling; for the 
present age the passionate love of discovery; 

But in one noble passion we are one; and Washington, Luther, 
Tacitus, Aeschylus, one kind of man. 

And you, America, that passion made you. You were not born 
to prosperity, you were born to love freedom. 

You did not say "en masse," you said "independence." But we 
cannot have all the luxuries and freedom also. 

Freedom is poor and laborious; that torch is not safe but hun- 
gry, and often requires blood for its fuel. 

You will tame it against it burn too clearly, you will hood it 
like a kept hawk, you will perch it on the wrist of Caesar. 

But keep the tradition, conserve the forms, the observances, keep 
the spot sore. Be great, carve deep your heel-marks. 

The states of the next age will no doubt remember you, and edge 
their love of freedom with contempt of luxury. 



I am not well civilized, really alien here: trust me not. 
I can understand the guns and the airplanes, 
The other conveniences leave me cold. 

"We must adjust our economics to the new abundance . 
Of what? Toys: motors, music-boxes, 
Paper, fine clothes, leisure, diversion. 

I honestly believe (but really an alien here: trust me not) 
Blind war, compared to this kind of life, 
Has nobility, famine has dignity. 

Be happy, adjust your economics to the new abundance; 
One is neither saint nor devil, to wish 
The intolerable nobler alternative. 



This country least, but every inhabited country 
Is clotted with human anguish. 
Remember that at your feasts. 

And this is no new thing but from time out of mind, 
No transient thing, but exactly 
Conterminous with human life. 

Praise life, it deserves praise, but the praise of life 
That forgets the pain is a pebble 
Rattled in a dry gourd. 



Like mourning women veiled to the feet 

Tall slender rainstorms walk slowly against gray cloud along the 

far verge. 

The ocean is green where the river empties, 
Dull gray between the points of the headlands, purple where 

the women walk. 

What do they want? Whom are they mourning? 
What hero's dust in the urn between the two hands hidden in 

the veil? 

Titaness after Titaness proudly 
Bearing her tender magnificent sorrow at her heart, the lost 

battle's beauty. 



It is true that, older than man and ages to outlast him, the Pacific 


Still cheerfully pounds the worn granite drum; 
But there's no storm; and the birds are still, no song; no kind of 


Nothing that shines, nothing is dark; 
There; is neither joy nor grief nor a person, the sun's tooth 

sheathed in cloud, 

And life has no more desires than a stone. 
The stormy conditions of time and change are all abrogated, the 


Violences of survival, pleasure, 
Love, wrath and pain, and the curious desire of knowing, all per* 

fectly suspended. 

In the cloudy light, in the timeless quietness, 
One explores deeper than the nerves or heart of nature, the womb 

or soul, 
To the bone, the careless white bone, the excellence. 



I hate my verses, every line, every word. 
Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try 
One grass-blade's curve, or the throat of one bird 
That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky. 
Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch 
One color, one glinting flash, of the splendor of things. 
Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax, 

The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings." 
This wild swan of a world is no hunter's game. 
Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast, 
Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame. 
Does it matter whether you hate your . . . self? At least 
Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can 
Hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan. 



Ciivilized, crying how to be human again: this will tell you how. 
Turn outward, love things, not men, turn right away from hu- 

Let that doll lie. Consider if you like how the lilies grow, 
Lean on the silent rock until you feel its divinity 
Make your* veins cold, look at the silent stars, let your eyes 
Climb the great ladder out of the pit of yourself and man. 
Things are so beautiful, your love will follow your eyes; 
Things are the God, you will love God, and not in vain, 
For what we love, we grow to it, we share its nature. At length 
You will look back along the stars' rays and see that even 
The poor doll humanity has a place under heaven. 
Its qualities repair their mosaic around you, the chips of strength 
And sickness; but now you are free, even to become human, 
But born of the rock and the air, not of a woman. 



This woman cannot live more than one year. 
Her growing death is hidden in a hopeless place, 
Her death is like a child growing in her, 
And she knows it, you see it shine in her face. 
She looks at her own hands and thinks "In a year 
These will be burnt like rags in the crematory. 
I shall not feel it. Where I? Where I? Not anywhere.' 1 
It is strange, it gives to her face a kind of glory. 
Her mind used to be lazy and heavy her face, 
Now she talks all in haste, looks young and lean 
And eager, her eyes glitter with eagerness, 
As if she were newly born and had never seen 
The beauty of things, the terror, pain, joy, the song. 
Or is it better to live at ease, dully and long? 



A little too abstract, a little too wise, 

It is time for us to kiss the earth again, 

It is time to let the leaves rain from the skies, 

Let the rich life run to the roots again. 

I will go down to the lovely Sur Rivers 

And dip my arms in them up to the shoulders. 

I will find my accounting where the alder leaf quivers 

In the ocean wind over the river boulders. 

I will touch things and things and no more thoughts, 

That breed like mouthless May-flies darkening the sky, 

The insect clouds that blind our passionate hawks 

So that they cannot strike, hardly can fly. 

Things are the hawk's food and noble is the mountain, Oh noble 

Pico Blanco, steep sea-wave of marble. 


One who sees giant Orion, the torches of winter midnight, 
Enormously walking above the ocean in the west of heaven; 
And watches the track of this age of time at its peak of flight 
Waver like a spent rocket, wavering toward new discoveries, 
Mortal examinations of darkness, soundings of depth; 
And watches the long coast mountain vibrate from bronze to 


Bronze to green, year after year, and all the streams 
Dry and flooded, dry and flooded, in the racing seasons; 
And knows that exactly this and not another is the world, 
The ideal is phantoms for bait, the spirit is a flicker on a grave; 
May serve, with a certain detachment, the fugitive human race, 
Or his own people, or his own household; but hardly himself; 
And will not wind himself into hopes nor sicken with despairs. 
He has found the peace and adored the God; he handles in 

ITie germs of far-future spring. 

Sad sons of the stormy fall, 
No escape, you have to inflict and endure; surely it is time for 


To learn to touch the diamond within to the diamond outside, 
Thinning your humanity a little between the invulnerable dia- 
Knowing that your angry choices and hopes and terrors are in 


But life and death not in vain; and the world is like a flight of 



The sky was cold December blue with great tumbling clouds, 

and the little river 
Ran full but clear. A bare-legged girl in a red jersey was wading 

in it, holding a five-tined 
Hay-fork at her head's height; suddenly she darted it down like 

a heron's beak and panting hard 
Leaned on the shaft, looking down passionately, her gipsy-lean 

face, then stooped and dipping 
One arm to the little breasts she drew up her catch, great ham- 

mered-silver steelhead with the tines through it 
And the fingers of her left hand hooked in its gills, her slender 


Rocked with its writhing. She took it to the near bank 
And was dropping it behind a log when someone said 
Quietly "I guess I've got you, Vina." Who gasped and looked up 
At a young horseman half hidden in the willow bushes, 
She'd been too intent to notice him, and said "My God, 
I thought it was the game-warden." "Worse," he said smiling. 

"This river's ours. 

You can't get near it without crossing our fences. 
Besides that you mustn't spear 'em, and . . . three, four, you 

little bitch, 
That's the fifth fish." She answered with her gipsy face, "Take 

half o' them, honey. I loved the fun." 
He looked up and down her taper legs, red with cold, and said 

fiercely, "Your fun. 
To kill them and leave them rotting." "Honey, let me have one 

o' them," she answered, 
"You take the rest." He shook his blond head. "You'll have to pay 

a terrible fine." She answered laughing, 
"Don't worry: you wouldn't tell on me." He dismounted and 

tied the bridle to a bough, saying "Nobody would. 
I know a lovely place deep in the willows, full of warm grass, 

safe as a house, 



Where you can pay it." Her body seemed to grow narrower 

suddenly, both hands at her throat, and the cold thighs 
Pressed close together while she stared at his face, it was beautiful, 

long heavy-lidded eyes like a girl's, 
"I can't do that, honey . . . I," she said shivering, "your wife 

would kill me." He hardened his eyes and said 
"Let that alone." "Oh," she answered; the little red hands came 

down from her breast and faintly 
Reached toward him, her head lifting, he saw the artery on the 

lit side of her throat flutter like a bird 

And said "You'll be sick with cold, Vina," flung off his coat 
And folded her in it with his warmth in it and carried her 
To that island in the willows. 

He warmed her bruised feet in 

his hands; 

She paid her fine for spearing fish, and another 
For taking more than the legal limit, and would willingly 
Have paid a third for trespassing; he sighed and said, 
"You'll owe me that. I'm afraid somebody might come looking 

for me, 
Or my colt break his bridle." She moaned like a dove, "Oh Oh 

Oh Oh, 
You are beautiful, Hugh." They returned to the stream-bank. 

While Vina put on her shoesthey were like a small boy's, all 

stubbed and shapeless young Flodden strung the five fish 
On a willow rod through the red gills and slung them 
To his saddle-horn. He led the horse and walked with Vina, 

going part way home with her. 

Toward the canyon sea-mouth 

The water spread wide and shoal, fingering through many chan- 
nels down a broad flood-bed, and a mob of sea-gulls 
Screamed at each other. Vina said, "That's a horrible thing." 

"What?" "What the birds do. They're worse than I am." 
When Flodden returned alone he rode down and watched them. 
He saw that one of the thousand steelhead 



Which irresistible nature herded up stream to the spawning- 
gravel in the mountain, the river headwaters, 

Had wandered into a shallow finger of the current, and was 
forced over on his flank, sculling uneasily 

In three inches of water: instantly a gaunt herring-gull hovered 
and dropped, to gouge the exposed 

Eye with her beak; the great fish writhing, flopping over in his 
anguish, another gull's beak 

Took the other eye. Their prey was then at their mercy, writh- 
ing blind, soon stranded, and the screaming mob 

Covered him. 

Young Flodden rode into them and drove them 

up; he found the torn steelhead 
Still slowly and ceremoniously striking the sand with his tail and 

a bloody eye-socket, under the 
Pavilion of wings. They cast a cold shadow on the air, a fleeting 

sense of fortune's iniquities: why should 

Hugh Flodden be young and happy, mounted on a good horse, 
And have had another girl besides his dear wife, while others 

have to endure blindness and death, 
Pain and disease, misery, old age, God knows what worse? 



A horseman high alone as an eagle on the spur of the mountain 
over Mirmas Canyon draws rein, looks down 

At the bridge-builders, men, trucks, the power-shovels, the teem- 
ing end of the new coast-road at the mountain's base. 

He sees the loops of the road go northward, headland beyond 
headland, into gray mist over Eraser's Point, 

He shakes his fist and makes the gesture of wringing a chicken's 
neck, scowls and rides higher. 

I too 
Believe that the life of men who ride horses, herders of cattle on 

the mountain pasture, plowers of remote 
Rock-narrowed farms in poverty and freedom, is a good life. At 

the far end of those loops of road 
Is what will come and destroy it, a rich and vulgar and bewildered 

civilization dying at the core, 
A world that is feverishly preparing new wars, peculiarly vicious 

ones, and heavier tyrannies, a strangely 
Missionary world, road-builder, wind-rider, educator, printer and 

picture-maker and broadcaster, 
So eager, like an old drunken whore, pathetically eager to impose 

the seduction of her fled charms 
On all that through ignorance or isolation might have escaped 

them. I hope the weathered horseman up yonder 
Will die before he knows what this eager world will do to his 

children. More tough-minded men 

Can repulse an old whore, or cynically accept her drunken kind- 
nesses for what they are worth, 
But the innocent and credulous are soon corrupted. 

Where is our 
consolation? Beautiful beyond belief 

The heights glimmer in the sliding cloud, the great bronze gorge- 
cut sides of the mountain tower up invincibly, 

Not the least hurt by this ribbon of road carved on their sea-foot. 


Amazingly active a toothless old man 

Hobbled beside me up the canyon, going to Horse Flats, he said, 

To see to some hives of bees. It was clear that he lived alone and 

craved companionship, yet he talked little 

Until we came to a place where the gorge widened, and deer- 
hunters had camped on a slip of sand 
Beside the stream. They had left the usual rectangle of fired 

stones and ashes, also some crumpled 
Sheets of a recent newspaper with loud headlines. The old man 

rushed at them 
And spread them flat, held them his arm's length, squinting 

through narrowed eyelids poor trick old eyes learn, to 

Lids act for lens. He read "Spain Battle. Rebels kill captives. City 

bombed Reds kill hostages. Prepare 
For war Stalin warns troops." He trembled and said, "Please read 

me the little printing, I hardly ever 
Get to hear news." He wrung his withered hands while I read; 

it was strange in that nearly inhuman wilderness 
To see an old hollow-cheeked hermit dancing to the world's 

echoes. After I had read he said "That's enough. 
They were proud and oppressed the poor and are punished for 

it; but those that punish them are full of envy and hatred 
And are punished for it; and again the others; and again the 

others. It is so forever, there is no way out. 
Only the crimes and cruelties grow worse perhaps." I said, "You 

are too hopeless. There are ways out." 
He licked his empty gums with his tongue, wiped his mouth and 

"What ways?" I said "The Christian way: forgiveness, to forgive 

your enemies, 
Give good for evil." The old man threw down the paper and 

said "How long ago did Christ live? Ah? 



Have the people in Spain never heard about him? Or have the 

Or Germans? Do you think I'm a fool?" "Well," I said to try 

him, "there's another way: extermination. 
If the winning side will totally destroy its enemies, lives and 

thoughts, liquidate them, firing-squads 
For the people and fire for the books and records: the feud will 

then be 
Finished forever." He said justly, "Yoiire the fool," picked up 

his bundle and hurried through the shadow-dapple 
Of noon in the narrow canyon, his ragged coat-tails flapping like 

mad over the coonskin patch 
In the seat of his trousers. I waited awhile, thinking he wished 

to be quit of company. 

Sweet was the clear 
Chatter of the stream now that our talk was hushed; the flitting 

water-ouzel returned to her stone; 
A lovely snake, two delicate scarlet lines down the dark back, 

swam through the pool. The flood-battered 
Trees by the stream are more noble than cathedral-columns. 


do we invite the world's rancors and agonies 
Into our minds though walking in a wilderness? Why did he 

want the news of the world? He could do nothing 
To help nor hinder. Nor you nor I can . . . for the world. It 

is certain the world cannot be stopped nor saved. 
It has changes to accomplish and must creep through agonies 

toward new discovery. It must, and it ought: the awful 

Is also the sacrificial duty. Man's world is a tragic music and is not 

played for man's happiness, 
Its discords are not resolved but by other discords. 

But for each man 

There is real solution, let him turn from himself and man to love 
God. He is out of the trap then. He will remain 



Part of the music, but will hear it as the player hears it. 

He will be superior to death and fortune, unmoved by success 

or failure. Pity can make him weep still, 
Or pain convulse him, but not to the center, and he can conquer 

them. . . . But how could I impart this knowledge 
To that old man? 

Or indeed to anyone? I know that all men 

instinctively rebel against it. But yet 
They will come to it at last. 
Then man will have come of age; he will still suffer and still die, 

but like a God, not a tortured animal. 



Ed Stiles and old Tom Birnam went up to their cattle on the 

bare hills 
Above Mai Paso; they'd ridden under the stars' white death, 

when they reached the ridge the huge tiger-lily 
Of a certain cloud-lapped astonishing autumn sunrise opened all 

its petals. Ed Stiles pulled in his horse, 
That flashy palamino he rode cream-color, heavy white mane, 

white tail, his pride and said 
"Look, Tom. My God. Ain't that a beautiful sunrise?" Birnam 

drew down his mouth, set the hard old chin, 
And whined: "Now, Ed: listen here: I haven't an ounce of 

poetry in all my body. It's cows we're after." 
Ed laughed and followed; they began to sort the heifers out of 

the herd. One red little deer-legged creature 
Rolled her wild eyes and ran away down the hill, the old man 

hard after her. She ran through a deep-cut gully, 
And Birnam's piebald would have made a clean jump but the 

clay lip 

Crumbled under his take-off, he slipped and 
Spilled in the pit, flailed with four hooves and came out scram- 
bling. Stiles saw them vanish, 
Then the pawing horse and the flapping stirrups. He rode and 

looked down and saw the old man in the gulley-bottom 
Flat on his back, most grimly gazing up at the sky. He saw the 

earth banks, the sparse white grass, 

The strong dark sea a thousand feet down below, red with reflec- 
tions of clouds. He said "My God, 
Tom, are you hurt?" Who answered slowly, "No, Ed. 
I'm only lying here thinking o' my four sons" biting the words 
Carefully between his lips "big handsome men, at present lolling 

in bed in their . . . silk . . . pyjamas . . . 
And why the devil I keep on working?" He stood up slowly and 

wiped the dirt from his cheek, groaned, spat, 



And climbed up the clay bank. Stiles laughed: "Tom, I can't tell 

you: I guess you like to. By God I guess 
You like the sunrises." The old man growled in his throat and 

"Catch me my horse." 

This old man died last winter, having 
lived eighty-one years under open sky, 

Concerned with cattle, horses and hunting, no thought nor emo- 
tion that all his ancestors since the ice-age 

Could not have comprehended. I call that a good life; narrow, 
but vastly better than most 

Men's lives, and beyond comparison more beautiful; the wind- 
struck music man's bones were moulded to be the harp for. 



By day and night dream about happy death, 
Poor dog give your heart room, drag at the chain, 
Breathe deep at dawn, wish it were the last breath, 
Imagine the leaden ball planted in the brain, 
The seed of that superb flower, dream the brave noose 
That loves the neck so dearly it lets the life loose, 
Dream the fierce joys of war where men like drunken 
Jesuses fling the supreme gift at each other, 
"Take blessedness, take it deep in your breast, brother . . 
Dream on, dream all these joys, life might look shrunken 
In lack of dreams. Give your wish light, give it room. 
You know you will never untimely attempt the tomb. 
Go in to your bride by daylight before the crowd 
As if sweet death were a whore? You are too proud. 



Our sardine fishermen work at night in the dark of the moon; 

daylight or moonlight 
They could not tell where to spread the net, unable to see the 

phosphorescence of the shoals of fish. 
They work northward from Monterey, coasting Santa Cruz; off 

New Year's Point or off Pigeon Point 
The look-out man will see some lakes of milk-color light on the 

sea's night-purple; he points, and the helmsman 
Turns the dark prow, the motorboat circles the gleaming shoal 

and drifts out her seine-net. They close the circle 
And purse the bottom of the net, then with great labor haul it in. 

I cannot tell you 
How beautiful the scene is, and a little terrible, then, when the 

crowded fish 
Know they are caught, and wildly beat from one wall to the 

other of their closing destiny the phosphorescent 
Water to a pool of flame, each beautiful slender body sheeted 

with flame, like a live rocket 
A comet's tail wake of clear yellow flame; while outside the 

Floats and cordage of the net great sea-lions come up to watch f 

sighing in the dark; the vast walls of night 
Stand erect to the stars. 

Lately I was looking from a night mountain-top 
On a wide city, the colored splendor, galaxies of light: how could 

I help but recall the seine-net 
Gathering the luminous fish? I cannot tell you how beautiful 

the city appeared, and a little terrible. 
I thought, We have geared the machines and locked all together 

into interdependence; we have built the great cities; now 
There is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable 

of free survival, insulated 



From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all 

dependent. The circle is closed, and the net 
Is being hauled in. They hardly feel the cords drawing, yet they 

shine already. The inevitable mass-disasters 
Will not come in our time nor in our children's, but we and our 

Must watch the net draw narrower, government take all powers 

or revolution, and the new government 
Take more than all, add to kept bodies kept souls or anarchy, 

the mass-disasters. 

These things are Progress; 

Do you marvel our verse is troubled or frowning, while it keeps 
its reason? Or it lets go, lets the mood flow 

In the manner of the recent young men into mere hysteria, splin- 
tered gleams, crackled laughter. But they are quite wrong. 

There is no reason for amazement: surely one always knew that 
cultures decay, and life's end is death. 



A flight of six heavy-motored bombing-planes 

Went over the beautiful inhuman ridges a straight course north- 
ward; the incident stuck itself in my memory 

More than a flight of band-tail pigeons might have done 

Because those wings of man and potential war seemed really in- 
trusive above the remote canyon. 

They changed it; I cannot say they profaned it, but the memory 

All day remained like a false note in familiar music, and suggested 
no doubt 

The counter-fantasy that came to my eyes in the evening, on the 
ocean cliff. 

I came from the canyon twilight 

Exactly at sunset to the open shore, and felt like a sudden exten- 
sion of consciousness the wild free light 

And biting north-wind. The cloud-sky had lifted from the west- 
ern horizon and left a long yellow panel 

Between the slate-edge ocean and the eyelid cloud; the smoky 
ball of the sun rolled on the sea-line 

And formless bits of vapor flew across, but when the sun was 

The panel of clear sky brightened, the rags of moving cloud took 
memorable shapes, dark on the light, 

Whether I was dreaming or not, they became spears and war- 
axes, horses and sabres, gaunt battle-elephants 

With towered backs; they became catapults and siege-guns, high- 
tilted howitzers, long tractors, armored and turreted; 

They became battleships and destroyers, and great fleets of war- 
planes ... all the proud instruments 

Of man imposing his will upon weaker men: they were like a 
Roman triumph, but themselves the captives, 

A triumph in reverse: all the tools of victory 

Whiffed away on the north-wind into a cloud like a conflagra- 
tion, swept from the earth, no man 



From this time on to exploit nor subdue any other man. I thought, 

"What a pity our kindest dreams 
Are complete liars," and turned from the glowing west toward 

the cold twilight. "To be truth-bound, the neutral 
Detested by all the dreaming factions, is my errand here.' 9 



The proletariat for your Messiah, the poor and many are to 
seize power and make the world new. 

They cannot even conduct a strike without cunning leaders: if 
they make a revolution their leaders 

Must take the power. The first duty of men in power: to defend 
their power. What men defend 

To-day they will love to-morrow; it becomes theirs, their prop- 
erty. Lenin has served the revolution, 

Stalin presently begins to betray it. Why? For the sake of power, 
the Party's power, the state's 

Power, armed power, Stalin's power, Caesarean power. 

This is 
not quite a new world. 

The old shepherd has been known before; great and progressive 
empires have flourished before; powerful bureaucracies 

Apportioned food and labor and amusement; men have been 
massed and moulded, spies have gone here and there, 

The old shepherd Caesar his vicious collies, watching the flock. 
Inevitable? Perhaps, but not new. 

The ages like blind horses turning a mill tread their own hoof- 
marks. Whose corn's ground in that mill? 



How many turn back toward dreams and magic, how many 


Run home to Mother Church, Father State, 
To find in their arms the delicious warmth and folding of souls. 
The age weakens and settles home toward old ways. 
An age of renascent faith: Christ said, Marx wrote, Hitler says, 
And though it seems absurd we believe. 
Sad children, yes. It is lonely to be adult, you need a father. 
With a little practice you'll believe anything. 

Faith returns, beautiful, terrible, ridiculous, 
And men are willing to die and kill for their faith. 
Soon come the wars of religion; centuries have passed 
Since the air so trembled with intense faith and hatred. 
Soon, perhaps, whoever wants to live harmlessly 
Must find a cave in the mountain or build a cell 
Of the red desert rock under dry junipers, 
And avoid men, live with more kindly wolves 
And luckier ravens, waiting for the end of the age. 

Hermit from stone cell 

Gazing with great stunned eyes, 

What extravagant miracle 

Has amazed them with light, 

What visions, what crazy glory, what wings? 

I see the sun set and rise 

And the beautiful desert sand 

And the stars at night, 

The incredible magnificence of things. 

I the last living man 

That sees the real earth and skies, 

Actual life and real death. 

The others are all prophets and believers 

Delirious with fevers of faith. 



Then what is the answer? Not to be deluded by dreams. 

To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence, 

and their tyrants come, many times before. 
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose 

the least ugly faction; these evils are essential. 
To keep one's own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted and 

not wish for evil; and not be duped 
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will 

not be fulfilled. 
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear the 

whole remains beautiful. A severed hand 
Is an ugly thing, and man dissevered from the earth and stars 

and his history . . . for contemplation or in fact . . . 
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness, the great- 
est beauty is 
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine 

beauty of the universe. Love that, not man 
Apart from that, or else you will share man's pitiful confusions, 

or drown in despair when his days darken. 



Staggering homeward between the stream and the trees the un- 
happy drunkard 

Babbles a woeful song and babbles 

The end of the world, the moon's like fired Troy in a flying 
cloud, the storm 

Rises again, the stream's in flood. 

The moon's like the sack of Carthage, the Bastile's broken, ped- 
lars and empires 

Still deal in luxury, men sleep in prison. 

Old Saturn thinks it was better in his grandsire's time but that's 
from the brittle 

Arteries, it neither betters nor worsens. 

(Nobody knows my love the falcon.) 

It has always bristled with phantoms, always factitious, mildly 

The organism, with no precipitous 

Degeneration, slight imperceptible discounts of sense and faculty, 

Adapts itself to the culture-medium. 

(Nobody crawls to the test-tube rim, 

Nobody knows my love the falcon.) 

The star's on the mountain, the stream snoring in flood; the brain- 
lit drunkard 

Crosses midnight and stammers to bed. 

The inhuman nobility of things, the ecstatic beauty, the inveter- 
ate steadfastness 

Uphold the four posts of the bed. 

(Nobody knows my love the falcon.) 



Hope is not for the wise, fear is for fools; 

Change and the world, we think, are racing to a fall, 

Open-eyed and helpless, in every newscast that is the news: 

The time's events would seem mere chaos but all 

Drift the one deadly direction. But this is only 

The August thunder of the age, not the November. 

Wise men hope nothing, the wise are naturally lonely 

And think November as good as April, the wise remember 

That Caesar and even final Augustulus had heirs, 

And men lived on; rich unplanned life on earth 

After the foreign wars and the civil wars, the border wars 

And the barbarians: music and religion, honor and mirth 

Renewed life's lost enchantments. But if life even 

Had perished utterly, Oh perfect loveliness of earth and heaven. 



That Nova was a moderate star like our good sun; it stored no 

doubt a little more than it spent 
Of heat and energy until the increasing tension came to the 

Of a new chemistry; then what was already flaming found a new 

manner of flaming ten-thousandfold 
More brightly for a brief time; what was a pin-point fleck on a 

sensitive plate at the great telescope's 
Eye-piece now shouts down the steep night to the naked eye, 

a nine-day super-star. 

It is likely our moderate 
Father the sun will some time put off his nature for a similar 

glory. The earth would share it; these tall 
Green trees would become a moment's torches and vanish, the 

oceans would explode into invisible steam, 
The ships and the great whales fall through them like flaming 

meteors into the emptied abysm, the six mile 
Hollows of the Pacific sea-bed might smoke for a moment. Then 

the earth would be like the pale proud moon, 
Nothing but vitrified sand and rock would be left on earth. This 

is a probable death-passion 
For the sun's planets; we have no knowledge to assure us it may 

not happen at any moment of time. 

Meanwhile the sun shines wisely and warm, trees flutter green 
in the wind, girls take their clothes off 

To bathe in the cold ocean or to hunt love; they stand laughing 
in the white foam, they have beautiful 

Shoulders and thighs, they are beautiful animals, all life is beau- 
tiful. We cannot be sure of life for one moment; 

We can, by force and self-discipline, by many refusals and a few 
assertions, in the teeth of fortune assure ourselves 



Freedom and integrity in life or integrity in death. And we know 
that the enormous invulnerable beauty of things 

Is the face of God, to live gladly in its presence, and die without 
grief or fear knowing it survives us. 



Farther up the gorge the sea's voice fainted and ceased. 

We heard a new noise far away ahead of us, vague and metallic, 

it might have been some unpleasant bird's voice 
Bedded in a matrix of long silences. At length we came to a little 

cabin lost in the redwoods, 
An old man sat on a bench before the doorway filing a cross-cut 

saw; sometimes he slept, 
Sometimes he filed. Two or three horses in the corral by the 

streamside lifted their heads 
To watch us pass, but the old man did not. 

In the afternoon we 

returned the same way, 
And had the picture in our minds of magnificent regions of space 

and mountain not seen before. (This was 
The first time that we visited Pigeon Gap, whence you look 

down behind the great shouldering pyramid- 
Edges of Pico Blanco through eagle-gulfs of air to a forest basin 
Where two-hundred-foot redwoods look like the pile on a Turk- 
ish carpet.) With such extensions of the idol- 
Worshipping mind we came down the streamside. The old man 

was still at his post by the cabin doorway, but now 
Stood up and stared, said angrily "Where are you camping?' 1 

I said "We're not camping, we're going home." He said 
From his flushed heavy face, "That's the way fires get started. 

Did you come at night?" "We passed you this morning. 
You were half asleep, filing a saw." "I'll kill anybody that starts 

a fire here . . ." his voice quavered 

Into bewilderment ... "I didn't see you. Kind of feeble I guess. 
My temperature's a hundred and two every afternoon." "Why, 

what's the matter?" He removed his hat 
And rather proudly showed us a deep healed trench in the bald 

skull. "My horse fell at the ford, 



I must V cracked my head on a rock. Well, sir, I can't remember 
anything till next morning. 

I woke in bed the pillow was soaked with blood, the horse was 
in the corral and had had his hay," 

Singing the words as if he had told the story a hundred times. 
To whom? To himself, probably, 

"The saddle was on the rack and the bridle on the right nail. 
What do you think of that now?" He passed 

His hand on his bewildered forehead and said, "Unless an angel 
or something came down and did it. 

A basin of blood and water by the crick, I must 'a' washed my- 
self." My wife said sharply, "Have you been to a doctor?" 

"Oh yes," he said, "my boy happened down." She said "You 
oughtn't to be alone here: are you all alone here?" 

"No," he answered, "horses. I've been all over the world: right 
here is the most beautiful place in the world. 

I played the piccolo in ships' orchestras." We looked at the im- 
mense redwoods and dark 

Fern-taken slip of land by the creek, where the horses were, 
and the yuccaed hillsides high in the sun 

Flaring like torches; I said "Darkness comes early here." He an- 
swered with pride and joy, "Two hundred and eighty- 
Five days in the year the sun never gets in here. 

Like living under the sea, green all summer, beautiful." My wife 
said, "How do you know your temperature's 

A hundred and two?" "Eh? The doctor. He said the bone 

Presses my brain, he's got to cut out a piece. I said 'All right, 
you've got to wait till it rains, 

I've got to guard my place through the fire-season.' By God," 
he said joyously, 

"The quail on my roof wake me up every morning, then I look 
out the window and a dozen deer 

Drift up the canyon with the mist on their shoulders. Look in 
the dust at your feet, all the little hoofprints," 



The bay is not blue but sombre yellow 

With wrack from the battered valley, it is speckled with violent 

And tiger-striped with long lovely storm-shadows. 

You love this better than the other mask; better eyes than yours 

Would feel the equal beauty in the blue. 

It is certain you have loved the beauty of storm disproportion- 

But the present time is not pastoral, but founded 

On violence, pointed for more massive violence: perhaps it is not 

Perversity but need that perceives the storm-beauty. 

Well 9 bite on this: your poems are too full of ghosts and demons, 

And people like phantoms how often life's are 

And passion so strained that the clay mouths go praying for de- 

Alas, it is not unusual in life; 

To every soul at some time. But 'why insist on it? And now 

For the worst fault: you have never mistaken 

Demon nor passion nor idealism for the real God. 

Then what is most disliked in those verses 

Remains most true. Unfortunately. If only you could sing 

That God is love, or perhaps that social 

Justice will soon prevail. I can tell lies in prose. 



I look at the Greek-derived design that nourished my infancy 
this Wedgwood copy of the Portland vase: 

Someone had given it to my father my eyes at five years old 
used to devour it by the hour. 

I look at a Greek coin, four-drachma piece struck by Lysimachus: 

young Alexander's head 
With the horns of Ammon and brave brow-ridges, the bright 

pride and immortal youth and wild sensitiveness. 

I think of Achilles, Sappho, the Nike. I think of those mercenaries 

who marched in the heart of Asia 
And lived to salute the sea: the lean faces like lance-heads, the 

grace of panthers. The dull welter of Asia. 

I am past childhood, I look at this ocean and the fishing birds, the 

streaming skerries, the shining water, 
The foam-heads, the exultant dawn-light going west, the pelicans, 

their huge wings half folded, plunging like stones. 

Whatever it is catches my heart in its hands, whatever it is makes 

me shudder with love 
And painful joy and the tears prickle ... the Greeks were not 

its inventors. The Greeks were not the inventors 

Of shining clarity and jewel-sharp form and the beauty of God. 

He was free with men before the Greeks came: 
He is here naked on the shining water. Every eye that has a 

man's nerves behind it has known him. 


I think of the dull welter of Asia. I think of squalid savages along 
the Congo: the natural 



Condition of man, that makes one say of all beasts "They are 
not contemptible. Man is contemptible." I see 

The squalor of our own frost-bitten forefathers. I will praise the 
Greeks for having pared down the shame of three vices 

Natural to man and no other animal, cruelty and filth and super- 
stition, grained in man's making. 


The age darkens, Europe mixes her cups of death, all the little 

Caesars fidget on their thrones, 
The old wound opens its clotted mouth to ask for new wounds. 

Men will fight through; men have tough hearts. 

Men will fight through to the autumn flowering and ordered 
prosperity. They will lift their heads in the great cities 

Of the empire and say: "Freedom? Freedom was a fire. We are 
well quit of freedom, we have found prosperity." 

They will say, "Where now are the evil prophets?" Thus for a 
time in the age's afterglow, the sterile time; 

But the wounds drain, and freedom has died, slowly the machines 
break down, slowly the wilderness returns. 


Oh distant future children going down to the foot of the moun- 
tain, the new barbarism, the night of time, 

Mourn your own dead if you remember them, but not for civili- 
zation, not for our scuttled futilities. 

You are saved from being little entrails feeding large brains, you 
are saved from being little empty bundles of enjoyment, 

You are not to be fractional supported people but complete men; 
you will guard your own heads, you will have proud eyes. 

You will stand among the spears when you meet; life will be 
lovely and terrible again, great and in earnest; 



You will know hardship, hunger and violence: these are not the 
evils: what power can save you from the real evils 

Of barbarism? What poet will be born to tell you to hate cruelty 

and filth? What prophet will warn you 
When the witch-doctors begin dancing, or if any man says "I 

am a priest," to kill them with spears? 



We stayed the night in the pathless gorge of Ventana Creek, 

up the east fork. 
The rock walls and the mountain ridges hung forest on forest 

above our heads, maple and redwood, 
Laurel, oak, madrone, up to the high and slender Santa Lucian 

firs that stare up the cataracts 
Of slide-rock to the star-color precipices. 

We lay on gravel and 

kept a little camp-fire for warmth. 
Past midnight only two or three coals glowed red in the cooling 

darkness; I laid a clutch of dead bay-leaves 
On the ember ends and felted dry sticks across them and lay 

down again. The revived flame 

Lighted my sleeping son's face and his companion's, and the ver- 
tical face of the great gorge-wall 
Across the stream. Light leaves overhead danced in the fire's 

breath, tree-trunks were seen: it was the rock wall 
That fascinated my eyes and mind. Nothing strange; light-gray 

diorite with two or three slanting seams in it, 
Smooth-polished by the endless attrition of slides and floods; no 

fern nor lichen, pure naked rock ... as if I were 
Seeing rock for the first time. As if I were seeing through the 

flame-lit surface into the real and bodily 
And living rock. Nothing strange ... I cannot 
Tell you how strange: the silent passion, the deep nobility and 

childlike loveliness: this fate going on 
Outside our fates. It is here in the mountain like a grave smiling 

child. I shall die, and my boys 
Will live and die, our world will go on through its rapid agonies 

of change and discovery; this age will die, 



And wolves have howled in the snow around a new Bethlehem: 
this rock will be here, grave, earnest, not passive: the energies 

That are its atoms will still be bearing the whole mountain above: 
and I, many packed centuries ago, 

Felt its intense reality with love and wonder, this lonely rock. 



An eagle's nest on the head of an old redwood on one of the 

precipice-footed ridges 
Above Ventana Creek, that jagged country which nothing but a 

falling meteor will ever plow; no horseman 
Will ever ride there, no hunter cross this ridge but the winged 

ones, no one will steal the eggs from this fortress. 
The she-eagle is old, her mate was shot long ago, she is now mated 

with a son of hers. 
When lightning blasted her nest she built it again on the same 

tree, in the splinters of the thunderbolt. 
The she-eagle is older than I; she was here when the fires of 

eighty-five raged on these ridges, 
She was lately fledged and dared not hunt ahead of them but ate 

scorched meat. The world has changed in her time; 
Humanity has multiplied, but not here; men's hopes and thoughts 

and customs have changed, their powers are enlarged, 
Their powers and their follies have become fantastic, 
The unstable animal never has been changed so rapidly. The 

motor and the plane and the great war have gone over him, 
And Lenin has lived and Jehovah died: while the mother-eagle 
Hunts her same hills, crying the same beautiful and lonely cry and 

is never tired; dreams the same dreams, 
And hears at night the rock-slides rattle and thunder in the throats 

of these living mountains. 

It is good for man 
To try all changes, progress and corruption, powers, peace and 

anguish, not to go down the dinosaur's way 
Until all his capacities have been explored: and it is good for him 
To know that his needs and nature are no more changed in fact 

in ten thousand years than the beaks of eagles. 



The world's as the world is; the nations rearm and prepare to 
change; the age of tyrants returns; 

The greatest civilization that has ever existed builds itself higher 
towers on breaking foundations. 

Recurrent episodes; they were determined when the ape's chil- 
dren first ran in packs, chipped flint to an edge. 

I lie and hear 

dark rain beat the roof, and the blind wind. 

In the morning perhaps 

I shall find strength again 

To value the immense beauty of this time of the world, the flow- 
ers of decay their pitiful loveliness, the fever-dream 

Tapestries that back the drama and are called the future. This 
ebb of vitality feels the ignoble and cruel 

Incidents, not the vast abstract order. 

I lie and hear dark rain beat 
the roof, and the night-blind wind. 

In the Ventana country darkness and rain and the roar of waters 

fill the deep mountain-throats. 
The creekside shelf of sand where we lay last August under a 

slip of stars, 
And firelight played on the leaning gorge-walls, is drowned and 

lost. The deer of the country huddle on a ridge 
In a close herd under madrone-trees; they tremble when a rock- 
slide goes down, they open great darkness- 
Drinking eyes and press closer. 



Cataracts of rock 
Rain down the mountain from cliff to cliff and torment the 

stream-bed. The stream deals with them. The laurels are 

Redwoods go down with their earth and lie thwart the gorge. I 

hear the torrent boulders battering each other, 
I feel the flesh of the mountain move on its bones in the wet 


Is this more beautiful 

Than man's disasters? These wounds will heal in their time; so 
will humanity's. This is more beautiful ... at night . . . 



After all, we also stand on a height. Our blood and our culture 

have passed the flood-marks of any world 
Up to this time. Our engineers have nothing to learn from Rome's, 

Egypt's, China's, and could teach them more 
Than ever their myth-makers imagined. Our science, however 

confused, personal and fabulous, can hardly 
Lean low enough, sun-blinded eagle, to laugh at the strange 

astronomies of Babylon, or at Lucretius 
His childish dreams of origins, or Plato's 
Lunatic swan. While as for our means and mastery of warfare, at 

sea, on land, in the air ... 

So boastful? 
Because we are not proud but wearily ashamed of this peak of 

time. What is noble in us, to kindle 
The imagination of a future age? We shall seem a race of cheap 

Fausts, vulgar magicians. 
What men have we to show them? but inventions and appliances. 

Not men but populations, mass-men; not life 
But amusements; not health but medicines. And the odor: what 

is that odor? Decaying lambskins: the Christian 
Ideals that for protection and warmth our naked ancestors . . . 

but naturally, after nineteen centuries . . . 

O Mort, vieux capitaine, est-il temps, nous levons Tancre? It is 

Time, almost time, to let our supreme inventions begin to work. 
The exact intelligent guns 

Can almost wheel themselves into action of their own accord, and 
almost calculate their own trajectories. 

The clever battleships know their objectives; the huge bombing- 
planes and meteor pursuit-planes are all poised for ... 

Vanity. This also is vanity; horrible too, but a vain dream. 

Our civilization, the worst it can do, cannot yet destroy itself; 
but only deep-wounded drag on for centuries. 



There is a hawk that is picking the birds out of our sky. 

She killed the pigeons of peace and security, 

She has taken honesty and confidence from nations and men. 

She is hunting the lonely heron of liberty. 

She loads the arts with nonsense, she is very cunning, 

Science with dreams and the state with powers to catch them at 


Nothing will escape her at last, flying nor running. 
This is the hawk that picks out the stars' eyes. 
This is the only hunter that will ever catch the wild swan; 
The prey she will take last is the wild white swan of the beauty of 


Then she will be alone, pure destruction, achieved and supreme, 
Empty darkness under the death-tent wings. 
She will build a nest of the swan's bones and hatch a new brood, 
Hang new heavens with new birds, all be renewed. 


Beyond the narrows of the Inner Hebrides 
We sailed the cold angry sea toward Barra, where Heaval moun- 
Lifts like a mast. There were few people on the steamer, it was 

late in the year; I noticed most an old shepherd, 
Two wise-eyed dogs wove anxious circles around his feet, and a 

thin-armed girl 

Who cherished what seemed a doll, wrapping it against the sea- 
wind. When it moved I said to my wife "She'll smother it." 
And she to the girl: "Is your baby cold? You'd better run down 

out of the wind and uncover its face." 
She raised the shawl and said "He is two weeks old. His mother 

died in Glasgow in the hospital 
Where he was born. She was my sister." I looked ahead at the 

bleak island, gray stones, ruined castle, 
A few gaunt houses under the high and comfortless mountain; 

my wife looked at the sickly babe, 
And said "There's a good doctor in Barra? It will soon be winter." 

"Ah," she answered, "Barra'd be heaven for him, 
The poor wee thing, there's Heaval to break the wind. We live 

on a wee island yonder away, 
Just the one house." 

The steamer moored, and a skiff what they 

call a curragh, like a canvas canoe 
Equipped with oars came swiftly along the side. The dark-haired 

girl climbed down to it, with one arm holding 
That doubtful slip of life to her breast; a tall young man with 

sea-pale eyes and an older man 
Helped her; if a word was spoken I did not hear it. They stepped 

a mast and hoisted a henna-color 
Bat's wing of sail. 

Now, returned home 
After so many thousands of miles of road and ocean, all the hulls 

sailed in, the houses visited, 



I remember that slender skiff with dark henna sail 
Bearing off across the stormy sunset to the distant island 
Most clearly; and have rather forgotten the dragging whirlpools 
of London, the screaming haste of New York. 


(Reference to Chapter II, The Women at Point Sur) 

I stand near Soberanes Creek, on the knoll over the sea, west of 

the road. I remember 
This is the very place where Arthur Barclay, a priest in revolt, 

proposed three questions to himself: 
First, is there a God and of what nature? Second, whether there's 

anything after we die but worm's meat? 
Third, how should men live? Large time-worn questions no 

doubt; yet he touched his answers, they are not unattainable; 
But presently lost them again in the glimmer of insanity. 

many minds have worn these questions; old coins 

Rubbed faceless, dateless. The most have despaired and accepted 
doctrine; the greatest have achieved answers, but always 

With aching strands of insanity in them. 

I think of Lao-tze; and the dear beauty of the Jew whom they 
crucified but he lived, he was greater than Rome; 

And godless Buddha under the boh-tree, straining through his 
mind the delusions and miseries of human life. 

Why does insanity always twist the great answers? 

Because only 

tormented persons want truth. 
Man is an animal like other animals, wants food and success and 

women, not truth. Only if the mind 
Tortured by some interior tension has despaired of happiness: 

then it hates its life-cage and seeks further, 
And finds, if it is powerful enough. But instantly the private 

agony that made the search 
Muddles the finding. 

Here was a man who envied the chiefs of 

the provinces of China their power and pride, 



And envied Confucius his fame for wisdom. Tortured by hardly 
conscious envy he hunted the truth of things, 

Caught it, and stained it through with his private impurity. He 
praised inaction, silence, vacancy: why? 

Because the princes and officers were full of business, and wise 
Confucius of words. 

Here was a man who was born a bastard, and among the people 
That more than any in the world valued race-purity, chastity, the 

prophetic splendors of the race of David. 
Oh intolerable wound, dimly perceived. Too loving to curse his 

mother, desert-driven, devil-haunted, 
The beautiful young poet found truth in the desert, but found 

Fantastic solution of hopeless anguish. The carpenter was not his 

father? Because God was his father, 
Not a man sinning, but the pure holiness and power of God. 

His personal anguish and insane solution 
Have stained an age; nearly two thousand years are one vast poem 

drunk with the wine of his blood. 

And here was another Saviour, a prince in India, 

A man who loved and pitied with such intense comprehension of 

pain that he was willing to annihilate 
Nature and the earth and stars, life and mankind, to annul the 

suffering. He also sought and found truth, 
And mixed it with his private impurity, the pity, the denials. 


search for truth is foredoomed and frustrate? 
Only stained fragments? 

Until the mind has turned its love from 
itself and man, from parts to the whole. 


A Little Scraping 457 

A Redeemer 189 

All the Little Hoofprints 599 

An Artist 192 

Ante Mortem 178 

Antrim 473 

Apology for Bad Dreams 174 

At the Birth of an Age 505 

At the Fall of an Age 485 

Autumn Evening 167 

Ave Caesar 567 

In the Hill at New Grange 

Inscription for a Gravestone 


lona: The Graves of the Kings 

Life from the Lifeless 
Love the Wild Swan 

Meditation on Saviors 


161 Natural Music 


262 New Mexican Mountain 

Blind Horses 

592 New Year's Eve 

Boats in a Fog 

I6 3 Night 

Night Without Sleep 

Continent's End 

87 No Resurrection 

Crumbs or the Loaf 

4*i Nova 

November Surf 

Decaying Lambskins 

*"> Now Returned Home 

Delusion of Saints 


Distant Rainfall 

57 * Oh, Lovely Rock 

Divinely Superfluous Beauty 

*5 Ossian's Grave 

Evening Ebb 

263 People and a Heron 


Fawn's Foster-Mother 

188 Point Joe 

Fire on the Hills 

350 Post Mortem 

Flight of Swans 

577 Praise Life 



* "5 



Ghosts in England 
Give Your Heart to the Hawks 


47 Roan Stallion 
37 Rock and Hawk 

Give Your Wish Light 


Going to Horse Flats 
Granite and Cypress 

582 Salmon-Fishing 
i*4 Science 

Gray .Weather 

57* Second-Best 

- "' 

Self-Criticism in February 


264 Shakespeare's Grave 


602 Shane O'Neill's Cairn 

Hooded Night 

265 Shine, Perishing Republic 

Hope Is Not for the Wise 

596 Shine, Republic 

Hurt Hawks 

198 Shiva 














1 68 


Shooting Season 




Still the Mind Smiles 

Subjected Earth 

Suicide's Stone 

Summer Holiday 



Tamar 3 

The Answer 594 

The Beaks of Eagles 607 

The Bed by the Window 362 

The Bird with the Dark Plumes 196 
The Broadstone 467 

The Broken Balance 258 

The Caged Eagle's Death Dream 185 
The Coast-Road 581 

The Cruel Falcon 562 

The Cycle 80 

The Dead to Qemenceau: No- 
vember, 1929 482 
The Giant's Ring 468 
The Great Sunset 591 
The Loving Shepherdess 205 
The Low Sky 466 
The Maid's Thought 66 

The Old Man's Dream After He 

Died 183 

The Place for No Story 358 

The Purse-Seine 588 
The Songs of the Dead Men to 

the Three Dancers 67 
The Tower Beyond Tragedy 89 
The Trap 569 
The Treasure . 169 
The Truce and the Peace 72 
The Wind-Struck Music 585 
The Women at Point Sur 182 
Thebaid 593 
Theory of Truth 615 
Thurso's Landing 266 
To His Father 71 
To the House 82 
To the Rock that Will Be a Cor- 
nerstone of the House 83 
To the Stone-Cutters 84 
Tor House 197 
Triad 459 

What Are Cities for? 566 

Where I? 575 

Winged Rock 361 

Wise Men in Their Bad Hours 86 

Woodrow Wilson 170